Tuesday, February 05, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: Canadian alleges firing from Toronto job for being born in Iran, sues General Dynamics for $4 million, lawyer blames US ITAR regulations

Man links birthplace to firing


A Canadian information technology expert is suing giant U.S. defence contractor General Dynamics for $4 million, claiming he was fired from his job because he was born in Iran.

Fred Montaseri, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen, was fired in July 2006 from a Canadian firm that has General Dynamics as a major client.

Toronto lawyer Paul Dollak says Montaseri was terminated by Oculus Info after General Dynamics threw Montaseri out of a corporate meeting when it learned he had been born in Iran. General Dynamics later demanded he be fired by Oculus, Dollak alleges.

Dollak says the United States' controversial International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which restrict the employment of non-American citizens in defence and military technologies, has wrongly cost Montaseri his job in Canada.

Information not published in 24 hours

“I am going to argue that it was discriminatory and that’s abhorrent,” Dollak told 24 hours in an exclusive interview.

Kendell Pease, General Dynamics Vice-President for Government Relations and Communications, declined to discuss the case. “General Dynamics does not comment on matters under litigation,” Pease said from Falls Church, Virginia.

Montaseri said that although he obtained a reasonable settlement from Oculus Info, the incident has drastically affected his career and life.

“It’s a huge negative impact. A lot of it is emotional and psychological,” Montaseri said in an interview. “I was proud of our Canadian multicultural society. Now I feel people judge me differently.”

Montaseri, 42, was born in Iran but has lived in Canada for 21 years and been a citizen for over 16 years.

Montaseri says he met an Oculus Info requirement that he have been a Canadian citizen for more than 10 years and immediately began working on General Dynamics projects.

While attending a meeting at a General Dynamics office in Pittsburgh on July 20, 2006, just 10 days after beginning his new job at Oculus Info, Montaseri says he was removed from the meeting room immediately without being allowed to take his personal possessions with him and escorted off the premises.

“When I asked why they said: ‘Because you were born in Iran.’ It didn’t matter that I was a Canadian citizen,” Montaseri says.

He was ordered by Oculus to fly back to Toronto that day and the next morning was terminated.

Montaseri’s statement of claim says Oculus told him he was fired because “he was born in Iran and for that reason, and for that reason alone, he posed a security risk for all General Dynamics projects in which Oculus was a participant.”

Dollak says General Dynamics’ actions amount to an “inducement of breach of contract and intentionally interefered with economic relations.”

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in Canada, Dollak said, although there have been other examples of Canadian workers with dual citizenship being denied ITAR security clearance on U.S. military projects in Canada.

In January a Haitian-born Canadian citizen reached a settlement with Bell Helicopter Textron Canada after he was refused a position in its internship program. That settlement ends the worker’s discrimination complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

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