WASHINGTON (CN) - An Egyptian FBI agent who says the bureau denied him a counterterrorism position, and placed him instead in a position for which he was overqualified, may have a discrimination case after all, a federal judge ruled.
Bassem Youssef sued former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2011, claiming that he was denied an assistant section chief position in the FBI's counterterrorism division because of his race, and in retaliation for his having filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against the agency in 2003.
After U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed Youssef's racial discrimination claims in January, and a jury returned a verdict against him for his remaining discrimination claim, the D.C. Circuit reversed Kollar-Kotelly's ruling and remanded the case back to her for further proceedings.
This time around, the judge ruled against the FBI, denying its motion to dismiss Youssef's claim that his transfer to the bureau's document exploitation unit was discriminatory.
"Upon careful consideration of the pleadings, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that while certain evidence and arguments raised by Youssef are either inadmissible or legally flawed, the inferences that a reasonable trier of fact could draw from Youssef's remaining evidence could either support a finding that discrimination occurred or that it did not and, thus, the ultimate question of whether Youssef's transfer to DocEx was motivated by national origin discrimination is best left to a jury," Kollar-Kottely states in her 22-page federal ruling.
Youssef says the FBI denied him the position with the counterterrorism division in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Specifically, Youssef points to the fact that, despite his counterterrorism experience, Arabic language skills, and expressed interest in serving in the Counterterrorism Division, he was not called into service in the Counterterrorism Division immediately after the 9/11 attacks while many agents at his grade level were called into service," the judge writes. "Youssef also points to the fact that, once transferred to DocEx, he was not selected as the Acting Unit Chief for the overall DocEx project, while a lower GS-14 agent was selected for the position."
According to the ruling, Youssef also proffered 12 pieces of evidence that he says reveals the false nature of the FBI's justification for not promoting him.
"The Court finds that the testimony and evidence to which the parties point could be characterized differently by reasonable triers of fact and differing, yet reasonable, inferences could be drawn therefrom," the judge concludes. "Accordingly, the Court finds it most appropriate to allow a jury to determine whether the FBI's proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for Youssef's transfer to DocEx was motivated by national origin."
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