Egyptian-born FBI agent + post-9/11 transfer = discrimination claim

I am an F....B.....I.... Agent! 

And if anyone wants to get me this iPad case for Christmas...

Wait, what was I supposed to be writing about? Oh yeah, national-origin discrimination.

Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian-born American citizen, claimed that his employer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, by not placing him in a substantive position dealing with counterterrorism and instead transferring him to a job for which he was dramatically overqualified. This is otherwise known as disparate treatment. The lower court dismissed the discrimination claim on summary judgment. On appeal, however, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed (opinion here).

At a minimum, to prove national-origin disparate treatment, a plaintiff must prove three elements:

  1. he is a member of a protected class,
  2. he suffered an adverse employment action, and
  3. the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination.

The appellate court found that there is no dispute that, as an Egyptian-born American citizen, Youssef is a member of a protected class. The focus, therefore, was whether he suffered a materially adverse employment action from which discrimination can reasonably be inferred. A "reassignment with significantly different responsibilities" generally meets that standard, and Youssef alleged that such a reassignment occurred. 

Based on the facts in the record, the appellate court concluded that a reasonable juror could find that Youssef experienced an extraordinary reduction in responsibilities constituting materially adverse action under Title VII. Consequently, it reversed the lower court's ruling and reinstated Youssef's discrimination claim.

For more on what may constitute a "materially adverse employment action" check out this edition of the QATQQ from August 10, 2011. And for more Point Break clips...sweet!

This article was originally published on Eric B. Meyer's blog, The Employer Handbook.

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