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Sunday, February 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Muslim Engineer Claims NASA Discriminated

(CN) - An Iranian Muslim employed by NASA as an aerospace engineer claims his boss routinely discriminated against him and retaliated when he dared file a grievance.

In a complaint filed in Norfolk, Va. Federal Court, the plaintiff engineer, Saied Emami, alleges Kenneth Rock, a supervisor in the space agency's Hypersonic Airbreathing Propulsion Branch, "manifested an intense hostility toward Emami from the time he was appointed to be the Branch Head until he finally fabricated a performance-based pretext to terminate Emami's employment."

Emami claims throughout his employment, Rock and others repeatedly rejected his applications for project funding, research-based training, and finally, inclusion in a congressional detail, claiming that he "speak[s] with an accent" and has "communication problems."

Emami says his frustrations peaked after the "The Office of Legislative Affairs eventually canceled the congressional detail in 2010, claiming that they had found 'no interested applicant.'"

He says at other time he watched other non-Iranian-Muslim employees get promoted while he was denied advancement. All the while, Emami claims, Rock made derogatory remarks about his national origin such as "Don't you like this country?" and "You people are so combative."

Emami says he complained about Rock to NASA's Equal Employment Opportunity Office and Office of Human Capital Management, but those complaints were not address and only resulted in more discriminatory conduct being directed toward him.

According to the complaint, Rock drew up a performance improvement plan that Emami says was nothing more than "a pretext intended to conceal discrimination and retaliation."

Later, "rock fabricated claims that Emami was unable to maintain cooperative relations with other employees, and asserted that Emami had made 'disruptive, inflammatory, accusatory, and belligerent' statements during the PIP period."

Rock fired Emami in June 2013, a decision that was upheld on appeal despite the complete failure, the complaint says, of anyone in management to look into the facts and circumstance surrounding the supervisor's decision to fire the employee.

Emami seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, back pay and compensatory damages on claims NASA and Rock violated Title VII by engaging in national origin and religious discrimination, and tortious interference with a contract.

He is represented by Lisa Lawrence of Lawrence & Associates in Richmond, Va.

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