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Algadi, WREDC facing lawsuit

WORTHINGTON -- A civil lawsuit claiming "sexual harassment, retaliation and other illegal conduct" has been filed against the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and its executive director, Abraham Algadi, in Fifth Judicial District C...

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WORTHINGTON -- A civil lawsuit claiming “sexual harassment, retaliation and other illegal conduct” has been filed against the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and its executive director, Abraham Algadi, in Fifth Judicial District Court by a former WREDC employee.

 

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 18 on behalf of the plaintiff by Lori Peterson Law Firm of Minneapolis. A jury trial has been scheduled for June 11-15, 2018. Algadi, as well as other individuals listed as WREDC’s “slate of officers,” are listed by name in the suit. James B. Sherman of Minneapolis is listed as representing the defendant.

 

In a complaint served Dec. 9, 2016, more than 50 instances of alleged misconduct by Algadi are listed. The complainant adds that the conduct is “not limited to” those examples, and also notes that WREDC’s board of directors “was repeatedly made aware of the misconduct of Defendant Algadi, but to no avail.”

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“Within a week of Plaintiff obtaining a restraining order against Defendant Algadi, and Defendant WREDC’s Board of Directors being informed of the restraining order and Plaintiff’s request for a leave of absence for her own safety, Defendant WREDC terminated her employment.

 

“This, despite the fact that Plaintiff had never been reprimanded, disciplined or put on any notice whatsoever that her performance was problematic or that her job was in danger,” the complaint adds. “Plaintiff’s termination was in retaliation for her objections to/reporting of, sexual and other misconduct of her boss, Defendant Algadi.”

 

The complaint listed six counts of misconduct against WREDC and Algadi - Minnesota Human Right Act: Gender Discrimination; Negligence in Retention/Supervision (Asserted Against Defendant WREDC); Assault and Battery (Asserted Against Both Defendants); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Asserted Against Both Defendants; Reprisal: Minnesota Human Rights Act Asserted Against Defendant WREDC); and False Imprisonment (Asserted Against Both Defendants).

 

Among the complainant’s requests for relief are:

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  • A declaratory judgment that the practices listed in the complaint are unlawful and violative of the MHRA and other pertinent law.
  • An order permanently restraining and enjoining WREDC from discriminating against plaintiff, or any other individual, on any basis forbidden by the MHRA.
  • An order requiring defendants to compensate, reimburse and make whole plaintiff for her losses attributable to their misconduct including but not limited to pay, benefits, training, promotions and seniority.
  • An award to compensate plaintiff for the pain and suffering and for the humiliation caused by defendants’ unlawful treatment in the amount in excess of $50,000 per defendant, per count.
  • Actual damages for doctor, hospital and other medical expenses incurred as a result of defendants’ liability arising from the misconduct.
  • A civil penalty payable to the state of Minnesota.
  • That a permanent mandatory injunction be issued requiring that defendant WREDC adopt and enforce employment practices in accord and conformity with the requirements of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

 
In response to the suit, a defendants’ answer and affirmative defenses to the plaintiff’s complaint was filed Jan. 31 in the Fifth Judicial District Court. It states that the defendants “deny each and every allegation” of the plaintiff’s complaint, and notes that the plaintiff’s “ex parte restraining order is based on (the plantiff’s) unrebutted, ex parte allegations, which are denied by Algadi.” Ex parte means with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party.

 

That document also offers these affirmative defenses:

 

  • “The plaintiff’s complaint fails to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.”
  • “The plaintiff’s complaint lacks dates on which her allegations are claimed to have taken place and her claims are barred, in whole or in part, to the extent they fall outside the applicable statutes of limitations.”
  • “Plaintiff effectively resigned her employment by, among other things, leaving work without explanation and without requesting or receiving approval and thereafter refusing to return to work, or to meet with or even speak to … WREDC’s acting Chairman despite his efforts.”
  • Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant WREDC are barred for her failure to avail herself of Defendant WREDC’s measures designed to correct the conduct she alleges and complains of in her Complaint.”
  • “Plaintiff’s claims of negligent retention/supervision, assault/battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and/or false imprisonment, are barred in whole or in part to the extent they arise out of the same operative facts for which the Minnesota Human Rights Act provides her exclusive remedy.”
  • “Plaintiff’s claims and prayer for relief, including equitable relief, are barred in whole or in part under the doctrine of unclean hands.”
  • “Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Algadi are barred, in whole or in part, due to Plaintiff’s attempts to tortuously interfere with his employment.”

 
The document, which is dated Dec. 27, 2016, concludes with: “Wherefore Defendants pray jointly and severally for judgment in their favor and against Plaintiff, dismissing Plaintiff’s Complaint and all of Plaintiff’s claims in their entirety, with prejudice and awarding Defendants their costs, disbursements and reasonable attorney’s fees … along with such further relief as the Court deems just and appropriate under the circumstances.”

 

According to court documents, a petition for harassment was filed in Nobles County District Court against Algadi on April 8, 2016 by the complainant, who indicated she was pushed, slapped, threatened and sexually harassed by Algadi -- all of which is also alleged in the lawsuit. Handwritten reports by the complainant detail the abuse she allegedly endured from early 2015 through early April 2016.

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Among the complainant’s specific allegations, she states that she was segregated by Algadi and sometimes physically pulled away from individuals she was conversing with. In addition, Algadi allegedly said he put a tracking device on her vehicle so he would know “where I am at all times.”

 

The complaint also references alleged physical abuse “on almost a daily basis with force enough that physically hurts,” as well as additional threats if she told anyone about the treatment. The complaint also cites multiple incidents of inappropriate sexual conduct by Algadi.

 

Algadi was hired as the WREDC manager in April 2013 and began his work in Worthington on May 1 of that year. He previously worked as the city administrator of Pine Island, in southeast Minnesota, but was forced to step down after the city chose to eliminate his position.

 

Sherman, the defendants’ legal counsel, offered a statement Tuesday afternoon.

 

“Many of the plaintiff’s comments were made to the local police well prior to this lawsuit, and following the department’s investigation, they declined to pursue any claims due to lack of evidence,” Sherman said. “We intend to continue to vigorously defend against these claims and expect that our claims will be vindicated through the justice system.”

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