- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

BRIDGETON, Mo., Feb. 5 (UPI) — Trans States Airlines Wednesday faced accusations it violated the civil rights of a pilot it fired shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The pilot, Mohammed Hussein, 28, of San Bruno, Calif., said he never was given a reason for the firing.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it found Hussein was terminated "on the basis of his religion, race and national origin."

William Mishk, a spokesman for the Bridgeton, Mo.-based carrier, said the charges are baseless but refused to discuss details of the case.

"I was fired exactly a week after Sept. 11," Hussein told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I was called into the office, not even given a reason, as much as I pleaded. I knew it had to do something with my name or discrimination or what was going on at the time."

Hussein is a native of Fiji. He has been a permanent legal resident of the United States since 1994 and is licensed as a private pilot, commercial pilot and flight instructor.

Airline representatives told the EEOC Hussein, who was hired Feb. 6, 2001, was fired following an anonymous tip he had been seen in uniform in a "drinking establishment" but the airline admitted no effort was made to determine the validity of the allegation before Hussein was fired.

The EEOC said the airline decided not to investigate the allegation after it received a phone call from someone who claimed to be with the FBI, saying the bureau wanted to interview Hussein. The airline said it did not try to find out why the FBI wanted to talk with him.

Hussein said the FBI interviewed him at a hotel in St. Louis after a patron saw him in his uniform shortly after the terrorist attacks.

"Some person saw me in uniform and saw me smiling, and the next thing you know, they called the FBI," Hussein told the newspaper. "Back then there was a rumor people had stolen pilot uniforms. So the FBI came over to the hotel … to see if my pilot's uniform was really mine. I told one of my flight managers about it. Maybe I shouldn't have."

Hussein is seeking reinstatement and back pay.

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