Pashto-Speaking Radio Broadcaster Sues for Employment Discrimination
Pashto deposition interpreters (also spelled Pashtu, Pushtu, Pakhto, or Afghan interpreters) along with Dari deposition interpreters are often needed in civil litigation cases. In Achagzai v. Broadcasting Board of Governors, five broadcasters from the Pashto Language Service filed suit against the Broadcasting Board of Governors alleging workplace discrimination on the basis of age and national origin. The court disposed of many of the plaintiffs’ claims through motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. The remaining claims, belonging to one of the plaintiffs, were ultimately dismissed after discovery on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
Background on the Afghan Parties.
The plaintiff was a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan. His native languages were Pashto and Dari. At all times relevant to the complaint, the plaintiff worked as a broadcaster for the Pashto Service, a division of “Voice of America” (“VOA”) In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he was the victim of numerous acts of discrimination and hostility when VOA modernized its format and the plaintiff voiced his displeasure with the programming changes.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (“Board”) is an independent federal agency. It oversees all non-military and international broadcasting that is sponsored by the federal government, including the VOA.
Pashtu-Speaking Plaintiff’s Claims and Procedural History.
The plaintiff claimed that after he criticized the changes to the program’s format, the managing editor retaliated against him. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that his manager gave additional responsibilities to lesser qualified employees and removed the plaintiff from favorable assignments. The plaintiff complained to his supervisors to no avail. After the plaintiff’s supervisors allegedly failed to remedy his concerns, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The 5 Pashto-speaking plaintiffs subsequently filed an action in federal court. The court dismissed the claims of 4 of the 5 plaintiffs on the grounds that they had failed to first exhaust their administrative remedies. The court held that the remaining plaintiff had exhausted his remedies with respect to his claims under Title VII and the ADEA and ordered the parties to conduct discovery on those matters. After the close of discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment as to the remaining plaintiff’s claims.
The remaining claims that were the subject of the defendant’s summary judgment motion stem from the following 2 events: 1) when the plaintiff’s boss asked plaintiff to translate three minutes of Pashto audio in English, the plaintiff told him he could not do so in the time allotted and the plaintiff’s boss emailed the head of the Pashto service and stated that the plaintiff “refused” to do his job; and 2) when the plaintiff’s supervisory duties were allegedly reduced to only 1 day per week while another co-worker, who reportedly lacked the proper Pashto to English language translation skills, was given 5 days with supervisory duties.
Court Grant’s Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
The court agreed that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment on the remaining plaintiff’s claims. In ruling on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court held that the remaining claims failed because neither of the defendant’s two actions described above constituted an “adverse action” sufficient to support a claim for retaliation or discrimination under Title VII or the ADEA. As to the first event described above, the court held that there were no “tangible consequences” that resulted from the email sent by plaintiff’s boss because the individuals involved met to discuss the email and the plaintiff’s supervisor then retracted his accusation. Therefore, the court held, without any evidence of any adverse employment action such as the denial of a promotion, the plaintiff could not pursue a claim. The court explained that, according to Douglas v. Donovan, 558 F.3d 549, 552 (D.C. Cir. 2009) “not everything that makes an employee happy is an actionable adverse action” and that in order to have an actionable employment action, there must be proof that the employer’s action affected the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
The court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that he was essentially demoted from a supervisory position in favor of other, less-qualified employees. First, the court held that the plaintiff’s responsibilities were not actually reduced and the plaintiff’s duties did not actually change in any material way. The court found that even if the change in the plaintiff’s schedule impacted his chances for a future promotion, the schedule change was in place for such a short period of time that it did not actually cause any harm to the plaintiff. The court found that the Board had offered credible evidence that the schedule change did not have any impact on the plaintiff’s role at the Pashto Service, that the job assignments were given out in a professional manner, and that the defendant properly and promptly resolved the plaintiff’s complaints.
Based on the reasons discussed above, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s discrimination and retaliation claims under the ADEA and Title VII.
The case is Achagzai v. Broadcasting Board of Governors, Case No. 14-768 decided on April 20, 2017 by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
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***This legal translation blog post should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.***