Skip to comments.Iranian couple files lawsuit against NIOSH - ACLU alleges discrimination
Posted on 12/14/2004 6:32:49 AM PST by the_devils_advocate_666
A Morgantown couple fired from their jobs at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in May filed a lawsuit against the agency last week, saying they were discriminated against because of their Iranian background and Islamic faith.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Aliakbar and Shahla Afshari, released information about the lawsuit Monday.
According to co-counsel Robert Bastress, a WVU law professor and cooperating attorney with the ACLU, the Afsharis went to work May 5 and were told they had failed a background check. The couple was then escorted from the laboratories. Seven months later, they still do not know why they were fired.
"The Afsharis were fired without any notice, without any procedures, and without any reason," Bastress said Monday. "The Afsharis allege that they have been discriminated against because of their Iranian heritage and their Muslim faith and because of the association they've had within the Muslim community."
According to the Afsharis' complaint filed against officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the parent agency of NIOSH, the Afsharis are seeking back pay and Aliakbar's reinstatement to his job as a senior fellow. The lawsuit, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, also seeks a hearing to clear the Afsharis' names.
The suit also names the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Bastress said the Afsharis came to Morgantown in 1987, when Aliakbar Afshari entered the industrial engineering doctorate program at WVU. He began working for NIOSH in 1996 as a contract worker, and his wife started a year later. The two were hired as full-time employees in 2000.
At the time they were hired, the Afsharis passed background checks as part of their employment application, Bastress said. They were fired because they failed to pass a secret background investigation that was conducted on employees from countries considered a threat to the United States, including Iran, according to a news release from the ACLU in West Virginia.
Aliakbar Afshari built equipment to study the health effects of welding and asphalt fumes, and hand and arm vibrations. Shahla Afshari, who has a master's degree in occupational health and safety engineering, worked in a laboratory that researched sensitivity to chemicals in the work place, such as allergic reactions to latex gloves.
Neither had access to classified documents or worked with banned biological or chemical toxins. Their jobs did not require a security clearance. Both are legal residents of the United States and were within a few years of attaining citizenship.
"More than anything, they want to clear their name so they can find future employment," Bastress said. "At the moment, it's extremely difficult for someone like Dr. Afshari to get employment when he has to present that he is an Iranian who has been fired by the government because he presented a security risk. They just want their life back."
CDC spokeswoman Kathy Harben said Monday that she could not comment on the lawsuit. She confirmed only that the Afsharis were no longer employed by the CDC.
When reached at his home, Aliakbar Afshari declined to comment, referring The Dominion Post to the family's attorney, Allan Karlin, who also is a cooperating attorney with the ACLU.
Karlin said the loss of their jobs has been a hardship for the Afshari family. Until they were fired, the Afsharis were considered valued employees at NIOSH in Morgantown. About 30 of the Afsharis' coworkers have written letters on their behalf.
This fall, Shahla Afshari entered WVU dental school with her daughter, Azadeh, the first time a mother-daughter team has entered the school in the same year. Aliakbar continues to look for work in his field.
Karlin said that the Afsharis' firing was unfair and violated their civil rights. He said that what happened to the Afsharis should not have a place in a country founded on freedom of expression.
"The United States holds itself out as a place where individuals are treated fairly with due process of law regardless of their religion or ethnicity," he said. "The treatment of the Afsharis is inconsistent with those ideals and contrary to the image of America that we portray to the world."
Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) - http://www.alliancedefensefund.org
Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) - http://www.thomasmore.org
American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) - http://www.aclj.org
The Rutherford Institute - http://www.rutherford.org/
Stop the ACLU Coalition - http://www.stoptheaclu.org
Here are a few examples of how two of those organizations are fighting back:
Thomas More Law Center: Town of Palm Beach Pays $50,000 In Attorney Fees Apologizes To Women In Nativity Lawsuit
I thought I would see this here, I wonder what the red flag was. I thought the whole point of background checks was to weed out all the sketchy people. My bad.
I can't think of a better reason to kick their a$$es out of the country.
If he was fired, there should be at least some reason given for being a securty risk. Quite often, middle eastern names get misspelled and a similar name belonging to someone different pops up who is a real security threat. If that's the case, this guy was wronged and it needs to be fixed.
EXCUSE ME ?
They are legal residents here. Unless NIOSH can show proof that they pose a security risk, they sound guilty of discrimination. (I leave room for the fact that we don't have all the facts.)
It looks like he was on triple-secret probation!
Both are legal residents of the United States and were within a few years of attaining citizenship.<<
Sorry, "a few years away from citizenship" is not even close enough to deserve a cigar in this case. These people could be "Sleeper Cells", the ACLU should quit protecting possible terrorists.
They are legal residents here.<<
But not citizens - that's the key.
I suspect something was found in their past that made them unqualified (this ACLU press release only tells one side of the story of course).
If not however, then they were treated unfairly- and unwisely.
I believe that's the truth.
I don't like several positions that the ACLU takes, but I can't have an opinion on something that's not clear with facts (although, based on some of their positions, I'd like to think whatever they're doing is just plain evil).
NO it isn't. They have rights as legal residents
Uh, I guess you're excused.
Correct. And since we don't have all the particulars in this case, knee-jerk reactions displaying discrimination are, ignorant and uncalled-for and go against the philosophy of the conservative movement.
See post # 16
NO it isn't. They have rights as legal residents<<
So did the 911 highjackers.
Better safe than sorry with those from the ME.
What, exactly, does that mean? Too many facts missing from this story.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.