Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iranian Couple, Fired By NIOSH, Win Lawsuit

Happy endings are so nice, even if they are way overdue.

Ali and Shahla Afshari, fired by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) when they allegedly failed a background security check, 18 years after entering this country, have won a lawsuit against their dismissal. The Afsharis were awarded $600,000 and the right to return to their jobs. Ali Afshari will return to NIOSH, but Shahla will not because she's attending dental school.

The Afshari's were escorted out of their workplace and dismissed two years ago because they they “failed to pass a background check” that they didn't even know was happening. Nor have they ever been told of the reasons that they failed.

Most important, the Afsharis said, are the letters they received from the agency director, John Howard. Mr. Howard, who approved their dismissals, said they should not have happened.

“What we really wanted more than anything else in the world was to clear our name,” said Mrs. Afshari.


Mr. Afshari, 54, returned last week to his job. Albert E. Munson, an agency official who had objected to the dismissals, said: “We are just terribly happy to have Ali back. He’s just a great guy.”

Last year, when the Afsharis became eligible to apply for citizenship, they considered not applying. The application is being processed.

“What we believed all along is that this is a great country,” Mrs. Afshari said. “Wrong things may happen, but as long as you have a chance to raise your voice and ask questions, you can get justice.”