A Denver district court jury awarded nearly $4 million to a former general hotel manager, an Arab-American, Tuesday afternoon in a racial discrimination suit against the Executive Tower Hotel.
A jury found that Executive Tower Hotel and owner Herbert Wasserman violated Rabah Khatib's civil rights and illegally retaliated by filing a counter-lawsuit of theft charges against Khatib to punish him for claiming racial discrimination.
The jury rejected all of the company's claims and awarded Khatib $ 3,785,000, with $ 2.2 million in punitive damages and the rest in lost wages and benefits and emotional suffering. An additional payment of attorney fees will bring Khatib's monetary award close to $ 4 million.
"Such a large amount awarded in punitive damages against the company and Mr. Wasserman is to send a strong message to companies that they can't retaliate against their employees for standing up for their own rights," said attorney Darold Killmer of Miller, Lane and Killmer, who co-represented Khatib with attorney Lee Christian.
Wasserman could not be reached for comment.
Khatib, 47, worked at the hotel for 18 years after he emigrated from Israel to the United States in 1977 and began working as a night clerk, Killmer said. For the last three years, Khatib served as general manager.
After Khatib was promoted to general manager, Wasserman asked Khatib to engage in illegal discriminatory hiring and insurance fraud by inflating claims for repair work after a 1994 flood damaged the building, Killmer said.
Killmer said Khatib refused. Wasserman victimized Khatib by humiliating and verbally abusing Khatib, questioning his intelligence and degrading his ethnicity in front of his subordinates in a deliberate attempt to "severly undercut his authority and confidence," Killmer said.
In 1995, Khatib resigned and filed a racial discrimination suit against Wasserman and the hotel.
Allegedly in retaliation, Wasserman sued Khatib, charging Khatib with theft and taking more benefits than he was entitled to.