Alabaman Anil Varshney alleges termination by Parsons Corporation over speaking Hindi during video call; U.S. Defense Secretary named defendant.
A 78-year-old Indian American from Alabama has sued a defense contractor alleging that he was fired for speaking Hindi.
The civil rights lawsuit by Anil Varshney, filed in the Northern District of Alabama, names Parsons Corporation and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, who oversees the United States Missile Defense Agency, as defendants.
The lawsuit, first reported by AL.com on Monday, alleges that Varshney was heard speaking Hindi during a video call. Varshney claims that he faced based on his language and ethnicity.
“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,” according to the lawsuit, which was also reported by the Associated Press. “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.’ ”
In their court response, Parsons refuted any allegations of wrongdoing and requested the dismissal of the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Varshney had been employed at Parsons’ Huntsville office from July 2011 to October 2022. The incident in question occurred when he received a video call from his brother-in-law while in an unoccupied cubicle.
During this call, which lasted approximately two minutes, he spoke to his brother-in-law. Subsequently, the company alleged that Varshney committed a security violation by using the Facetime application at a classified worksite, leading to his termination. However, Varshney asserts that there was no policy explicitly prohibiting him from accepting such calls, and he disputes the grounds for his dismissal.
The suit alleges that the termination had significant repercussions, as it allegedly blacklisted him from potential future employment opportunities with the Missile Defense Agency. Varshney’s association with the federal agency dates back to 2002 when he initially started working there. He maintained his dual employment at Parsons and the agency until 2022, which the lawsuit cites as a testament to his achieving the American Dream.
Employment discrimination lawsuits are not uncommon in the United States; however, the case alleging discrimination based on speaking an Indian language appears to be one of the first of its kind.
In 2014, Indian IT giant Infosys faced a lawsuit from several former employees who accused higher-ups at the company of discrimination due to their inability to speak Hindi.
The case was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and centered around four employees who alleged that they faced various forms of discrimination essentially based on not being of Indian origin.
In 2015, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. was sued by a former employee who claimed the company engaged in discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian. Steven Heldt, in a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleged that he experienced “substantial anti-American sentiment” during his employment at Tata Consultancy. After working at several of the company’s U.S. offices for 20 months, he was terminated, and he believed this action was due to his Caucasian American identity.