SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Microsoft muzzled an employee who fled Libya during its revolution, and fired him after he talked about it, the man claims in Federal Court.
Mahmoud Kedkad claims Microsoft fired him from his $192,000-a-year marketing job in retaliation for speaking to reporters about the Libyan revolution. Government troops killed members of his family, and he himself was put on a "'hit list' as an infidel because employed by an American company," Kedkad says.
He also claims the company discriminated against him because he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the violence he witnessed, and fled.
Microsoft hired Kedkad, a Libyan national and naturalized U.S. citizen, on Feb. 1, 2010, then extended his yearlong contract for a second year, to end on Jan. 31, 2012, he says in the complaint.
"In or around the start of February 2011, the Libyan revolution commenced," the complaint states. "During the initial weeks thereafter, plaintiff repeatedly witnessed horrific carnage as government troops attempted to quell the revolution by firing upon and killing or wounding demonstrators, and he was also shocked upon learning that some of his own relatives were among those thus killed and wounded, and that he himself had been put on a 'hit list' as an infidel because employed by an American company. Increasingly fearful for his own safety, plaintiff joined other American nationals in fleeing Libya on February 27, 2011 by taking a flight to Istanbul, Turkey that the U.S. Embassy in Libya had chartered. When the flight landed at the airport in Istanbul, plaintiff was immediately approached by news reporters seeking news about the Libyan uprising, and he responded to their questions by describing the brutal confrontations between government troops and demonstrators that he had witnessed. He did not disclose to the reporters that he was in Libya as an employee of defendants.
"Plaintiff was then met at the Istanbul airport by defendants' human resources manager, Clemens Kastner ('Kastner'), who, having observed plaintiff responding to the news reporters, admonished plaintiff to refrain from communicating any further about the Libyan revolution to any news media. Plaintiff responded by arguing to Kastner that he had responded to the news reporters purely as a private citizen, without disclosing that he was employed by defendants, and that it was his constitutional right to do so. Kastner angrily retorted that defendants would terminate plaintiff's employment if he again communicated with the news media, even as a private citizen, about the Libyan revolution," the complaint states.
Kedkad returned to the United States on March 1, 2011 and rejoined his wife and children in California.
"Traumatized by the violence with which he had been surrounded in Libya, plaintiff suffered PTSD symptoms and found a psychotherapist with whom he underwent therapy sessions starting in March and April 2011 to address the symptoms," the complaint states. "His psychotherapist instructed plaintiff to remain at home while recovering from the PTSD symptoms, in that the emotional support from his family would facilitate his recovery."
Microsoft told him in mid-March that it had suspended work in Libya due to the violence, and reassigned him to Dubai. Kedkad says he informed his bosses that his therapist had advised him to say home, and asked if he could do his Dubai assignment by telemarketing from home.
"(P)laintiff proposed that he be allowed to work with the Dubai marketing personnel from his home, through email and teleconferencing," the complaint states. "Plaintiff alternatively proposed that he be assigned other job duties that could be performed at the Microsoft Corporation offices located in San Francisco and/or Mountain View, Calif., both of which he had already visited several times since his return to network and collaborate with defendants' employees working there.
"From mid-March through early May, 2011, defendants failed and refused to engaged in a reasonable and good faith dialogue with plaintiff concerning how his job duties could be postponed or modified in order to allow him to remain at home for at least the short term, and failed to offer plaintiff any postponement or change of his Dubai assignment."
In May, Kedkad says, he told Microsoft he was doing well enough that he was willing to go to Dubai or to an equivalent job elsewhere if the company would pay for his family to accompany him.
But Microsoft told him "that his only recourse for continuing his employment with defendants was for him to apply for any of Microsoft Corporation's job openings in the United States. By failing and refusing to act affirmatively to transfer plaintiff into a new job in either the United States or overseas, defendants treated him in adverse contrast to comparable personnel previously assigned to Microsoft Libya, all of whom were affirmatively transferred by defendants into new jobs," the complaint states.
Kedkad claims he "applied to no avail for numerous job openings" in the United States.
He claims that a "contributing cause thereof was that, in or about August, 2011, defendants electronically posted for viewing by the hiring managers an annual job performance evaluation of plaintiff for the fiscal year period from approximately July, 2010 through June, 2011 that showed a gap from March through June, 2011 for which plaintiff was described as performing no job duties, and provided no explanation that said gap was not the fault of plaintiff, but rather had resulted from the political unrest in Libya."
Microsoft paid Kedkad's his salary, with reduced job benefits, until it fired him on Dec. 1, 2011, two months before his employment contract was to end, he says.
He seeks lost wages, front pay and $3 million in punitive damages for failure to provide reasonable accommodation, disability discrimination, wrongful firing and breach of contract.
He is represented by Michael Adams in Redwood City.