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Document: Stephen Ben-Naimah vs. Missouri Department of Corrections

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A former Missouri Department of Corrections probation and parole assistant has sued the department for alleged racial and national origin discrimination, as well as retaliatory discharge.

The lawsuit by Stephen Ben-Naimah, of Jefferson City, was filed Wednesday in Cole County Circuit Court.

Ben-Naimah said in his lawsuit he worked for DOC in April 2018 and his supervisor regularly told him to "put on your African learning brain."

Ben-Naimah is Black and from the West African nation of Liberia.

He said a coworker regularly called him a "'mass murderer,' among other things."

Another coworker was allegedly instructed by Ben-Naimah's supervisor to sabotage his application for U.S. citizenship by looking for and exploiting any disqualifying information about him, including whether he had a criminal record.

Ben-Naimah also said if he was ever late for work, he would be disciplined for it, while white workers who were late were not disciplined.

He said he "regularly reported" the alleged statements and conduct of his supervisor and coworkers and the unequal discipline to the DOC, but his reports were ignored and no corrective action was taken.

Additionally, Ben-Naimah said he applied in March 2019 for an open position, but two DOC employees "discarded his application and never forwarded it for processing."

He said he was harassed so often for being Black and from Liberia that he tried to transfer to St. Louis, but one of the employees who allegedly discarded his application "ensured that he was not transferred."

Ben-Naimah said he was terminated from his job in October 2019 for "allegedly violating unspecified department policies," but claimed he was singled out because of his race, national origin and for reporting the alleged mistreatment.

He said he filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in June 2018 and, upon his request, was issued a written notice of his right to sue May 21, 2020, though the commission had not yet finished its investigation.

Ben-Naimah is seeking for a jury to award him actual and punitive damages, as well as court and attorney fees.

DOC spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said Thursday the department does not comment on pending litigation.

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