New York, Aug 1 (IANS) A 78-year-old Indian-American engineer has claimed that he was fired from his job for speaking in Hindi with a dying relative on the phone last year.
Anil Varshney filed a lawsuit against missile defense contractor Parsons Corporation and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, alleging systemic discriminatory actions by the company, AL.com reported.
He was “wrongfully terminated” after a white co-worker heard him speaking Hindi on a telephone call, lasting approximately two minutes, with his dying brother-in-law in India on September 26, 2022.
The suit claimed that the other worker “falsely and intentionally” reported that Varshney “committed a security violation by revealing confidential information and/or accepting this call during a confidential meeting or with confidential information in the background of the call”.
Varshney said in his lawsuit that there was no confidential or classified information anywhere near the call.
According to him, the cubicle where he accepted the video call was completely empty “with no office material or wall hangings in the cubicle, and there was no confidential information being exchanged nearby”.
“Despite there being no policy prohibiting the call, and without any investigation, defendants claimed Mr Varshney committed a serious security violation and fired him,” the lawsuit, filed in June in the Northern District of Alabama, read.
“Worse, they blackballed him from future work, effectively ending his career and life of service to Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the UA government,” the lawsuit added.
Varshney provided “engineering support for the development of integrated and layered MDAs, which defend the US and allied partner forces against ballistic missile threats.
Parsons denied any wrongdoing on its part in a response filed with the court on July 24.
In addition, it asked for the suit’s dismissal with prejudice, and that Varshney pay its attorneys’ fees and costs, the news website reported.
According to the lawsuit, Varshney has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Banaras Hindu University, and immigrated to the US in 1968.
He worked at Parsons’ Huntsville office from July 2011 to October 2022 and was recognised as “Contractor of the Year” in systems engineering and received a letter of MDA recommendation “for saving $5 million on the ground-based missile defence program”.
Varshney’s lawsuit seeks his reinstatement to a position “comparable to his former position”, along with reinstatement of privileges, and the revocation (or removal) of any disciplinary records in his file, according to AL.com.
If he is not reinstated to his job level, he seeks “front pay including benefits” and compensatory damages for “mental anguish and emotional distress”, along with punitive and liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.