Iranian-Born Worker Can Sue Defense Firm for Bias Over Security Clearance Firing

By Staff Report

Apr. 6, 2011

A federal appeals court has allowed a discrimination lawsuit filed by an Iranian-born engineer who was terminated by his firm after he failed to obtain Homeland Security clearance even though two fellow non-Iranian workers were permitted to continue working despite their clearances being rescinded.

According to the decision in Hossein Zeinali v. Raytheon Co. by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, Zeinali had been hired by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon in 2002 contingent upon his receiving the clearance. Zeinali was terminated in 2006 after it was learned his security request had been denied.

Zeinali filed a lawsuit under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act claiming he was terminated because of his race and national origin. Raytheon contended he was fired because he did not obtain the clearance.

A three-judge panel ruled in Zeinali’s favor.

“In light of the fact that Raytheon retained multiple non-Iranian engineers after their security clearances were removed, Zeinali has raised triable disputes regarding (1) whether security clearances were a bona fide requirement for Raytheon engineers, and (2) whether Raytheon’s central purported reason for terminating him (his lack of a security clearance) was pretextual,” said the decision, which overturned a lower court ruling.

Disagreeing with Raytheon, the appellate court also ruled federal courts have jurisdiction over the discrimination claim even though it involved an executive branch security clearance decision.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.  

Filed by Judy Greenwald of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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