A Failure to Communicate
HOUSTON - After a Dow Chemical manager got a Palestinian-Muslim engineer fired, she gave Arabic notes she found in his office to the FBI, falsely calling him a "potential terrorist," the engineer claims in court.
Nedal Asfour sued Dow Chemical Company and subsidiary Rohm and Haas in Harris County Court.
Asfour says Dow hired him in 2011 as a maintenance engineer at its Deer Park plant.
Within a year, he says, he got a raise, a bonus and several letters of recognition from co-workers for his "outstanding job performance."
But Asfour says his workplace took a sharp turn for the worse when Amy Asdel took over as his manager in July 2012.
"From the first day Asdel became plaintiff's manager, she treated plaintiff differently from the other engineers under her supervision," the complaint states. "Specifically, she exhibited hostility towards plaintiff, kept her distance from him, and was uncomfortable around plaintiff. Plaintiff was the only engineer under Asdel's supervision who was Muslim and who was from the Middle East."
Asdel is not named as a defendant.
Asfour claims Asdel set the tone for their relationship at their first meeting, where she yelled at him and threatened to fire him.
"Unbelievably, Asdel left the door to her office open while she was engaging in this abusive, unprofessional behavior towards plaintiff. At one point during the meeting, Asdel tried to grab notes from plaintiff's hands that plaintiff had brought with him to reference during the meeting," according to the complaint.
Asfour says he reported the misconduct to human resources, but that just fueled Asdel's animosity.
Engineers at the plant took every other Friday off, Asfour says, yet when he told Asdel he would be taking a Friday off she stormed into his office and "berated" him, yelling, "I am in charge of your schedule!"
Asfour says he tried to make peace with Asdel and told her that though he was Muslim his son had gone to Catholic schools his whole life.
"Asdel did not participate in this conversation other than to say that she would not want to live in a foreign country. She then abruptly walked off," the complaint states.
Despite his numerous meetings with HR and managers about Asdel's behavior, Asfour says, she continued to discriminate against him by excluding him from meetings and holding him to a higher standard than his peers.
Asfour says the hostilities eventually sent him to an emergency room, where he was diagnosed with "cardiac symptoms due to work-related stress issues."
While Asfour was out on medical leave in November 2012, he says, Dow chose to fire him rather than address his issues with Asdel.
Asfour says he thought he was done with Dow, until he was contacted by FBI agents who said they had received a complaint about him.
"Plaintiff was not given any details but he agreed to meet with an FBI agent and they set up a meeting after the holidays," the complaint states. "Plaintiff met with two FBI agents in January 2013. During that meeting plaintiff was told that a complaint was made by 'a Dow employee' who contacted the FBI directly about some handwritten notes that were found in plaintiff's (former) office. Some of these notes were in Arabic. ... The FBI also said Dow reported that it viewed these documents as an indication that plaintiff was a potential terrorist and that was the reason he was being fired." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Asfour says he explained that he had been off work on medical leave when Dow fired him, and the FBI dropped its investigation, concluding the "contents of the notes 'were innocuous and had no indication, intent or subject matter indicating any violent or terrorist content.'"
Asfour suspects Asdel was the FBI informant as she "would routinely go into plaintiff's office and go through his personal files without any reason," he says.
He seeks damages for discrimination and retaliation including "lost wages, pension and other lost benefits."
He is represented by Joseph Ahmad with Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing of Houston.
Dow Chemical did not respond to a request for comment.