U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Terminated FBI Agent Loses Muslim Discrimination Claim

For Khalid Khowaja, it seemed like being a Muslim and an FBI agent wasn't a good fit.

In a discrimination lawsuit, he said other agents treated him differently because of his religion. One supervisor yelled Arabic holy phrases at the office, and another said he was "not our typical agent."

But in Khowaja v. Sessions, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of his lawsuit. In the end, Khowaja apparently didn't get along well with others.

Probationary Employee

Khowaja was a probationary employee at the FBI's Milwaukee office for almost one year. But in 2013, a supervisor recommended his removal for "lack of judgment."

In one instance, Khowaja failed to give a Miranda warning before questioning an inmate. Another time, he didn't coordinate with local police during an investigation. But the biggest problem, according to reports, seemed to be his "defensiveness when corrected."

After he was terminated, he sued for discrimination under Title VII. A trial judge dismissed on a motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, Khowaja argued that he was a member of a protected class and that he suffered an adverse employment action. However, the Seventh Circuit said, his case was doomed for one main reason.

Job Performance

The appeals court said Khowaja had ongoing judgment-related problems during his probation, and that he did not contest the problems occurred. He admitted he did not Mirandize an inmate, and that he violated protocol in another investigation by not working with local authorities.

"Additionally, Khowaja does not dispute that his judgment was repeatedly cited as an issue in his performance assessments," the appeals panel said.

It was similar to Gill v. United States Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation in the DC Circuit last year. In that case, a Muslim FBI agent admitted misconduct but claimed he lost a security clearance because of his religion.

The appeals court there said the plaintiff raised his religion claim too late to be heard. In Khowaja, the Seventh Circuit said the appellant presented no evidence of religious discrimination.

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