Indian American engineer says he was fired by defense contractor after speaking Hindi at work

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Indian-American engineer says he was fired last year from his long-time job with a missile defense contractor’s Alabama office after he was heard speaking Hindi on a video call, according to a federal lawsuit he filed against the company.

Anil Varshney, 78, filed a civil rights lawsuit in the Northern District of Alabama against Parsons Corporation and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, whose department oversees the United States Missile Defense Agency, reported Monday.

“This case arises out of Defendants’ intentional acts to end Mr. Varshney’s highly distinguished engineering career because he is a 78-year-old Indian American,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants abruptly terminated Mr. Varshney after one of his white colleagues overheard him speaking Hindi to his dying brother-in-law in India and falsely reported him for a violation of ‘security regulations.’ ”

Sharon L. Miller, an attorney representing the Virginia-based defense contractor, did not immediately respond to a phone message and email requesting comment. In a response filed with the court, Parsons denied wrongdoing and asked for the lawsuit’s dismissal.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Varshney, who worked at Parsons’ Huntsville office from July 2011 to October 2022, accepted a video call from his brother-in-law in an empty cubicle and spoke to him for about two minutes. The company then said he committed a security violation by using the Facetime application at the classified worksite and fired him. He claims there was no policy prohibiting the call he accepted.

The firing blackballed him from future work with the Missile Defense Agency, the lawsuit alleges. He first began working for the federal agency in 2002 and continued in tandem with his employment at Parsons until 2022. In doing so, he achieved the American Dream, the lawsuit says.

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