Mo. CO wins $1M settlement in worker harassment case
The CO convinced a jury she was illegally discriminated against for being a Muslim while at her job at a low-security prison facility
By Kurt Erickson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri corrections officer has won a large settlement from the state after she was harassed by her boss for being a Muslim.
A report issued last week by Attorney General Andrew Bailey shows Amina Alhalabi received a $159,000 check earlier this spring after she convinced a jury she was illegally discriminated against at her job at a low-security prison facility in Fulton.
Her attorneys received more than $800,000, bringing the total hit to taxpayers to more than $975,000, according to a filing in the state’s Legal Expense Fund.
Alhalabi, a native of Lebanon, began work as a correctional officer at the Cremer Therapeutic Community Center in Callaway County in 2012, court records say.
Beginning in 2013 she said she began being mocked by her supervisor for the way she spoke, her original complaint said.
“At times, he was so relentless that he brought plaintiff to tears,” the complaint notes.
Her supervisor also assigned her to transfer nude male prisoners, which she said she could not because her religion did not allow her to see any nude men other than her husband.
She also alleged she was not given time off to observe a Muslim holiday.
By 2015, she had been discharged from the department, leading to her filing the lawsuit in 2016.
In its decision, the jury rejected Alhalabi’s request for punitive damages but agreed that she had been discriminated against.
The payout is the latest in millions of dollars in settlements that have diverted money from the state’s core programs.
Like Alhalabi, many of the cases occurred under the watch of then-Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi, who resigned after former Gov. Eric Greitens was elected in 2016.
Greitens appointed Anne Precythe as director in 2017, and she has remained in the post under Gov. Mike Parson.
Precythe launched a zero-tolerance policy for managers who fail to respond to misconduct allegations. And the department established an Office of Professional Standards in 2017.
Many of the settlements involve women corrections officers who alleged male co-workers or supervisors harassed them as they worked in the state’s sprawling system of 20 prisons.
In response to the settlements and judgments, former Attorney General Josh Hawley began posting a monthly list of legal expenses on his website. The latest filing covers legal expenses from May.
The report notes that there are an estimated $258 million in contested pending claims.
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