Lealem Mulgeta has sued NASA, Administrator Charles Bolden and University Space Research Association. Mr. Mulugeta’s suit alleges that he (an African male from Ethiopia) he was hired by USRA to work for NASA’s Digital Astronaut Project (“DAP”). The suit claims numerous example of alleged discrimination against Mulugeta beginning in April 2009. According to the Complaint, some of these included:
“Intense and undue scrutiny, in which NASA staff would monitor him in pairs.”
Being repeatedly characterized as and questioned about being Muslim.
Disparately low salary, despite his experience, performance and Master’s degree.
Being told by a Project Leader that “you’re practicably my slave.”
Notably, the Complaint alleges that (despite the supposed discrimination) that Mulugeta was promoted to Lead Scientist, but complains that his salary was not appropriately increased. He alleges that the discrimination continued after the promotion. When he complained to a Civil Servant he was allegedly told that “you just need to become an American citizen”. Eventually he took two different medical leaves, allegedly because of job stress. During the second leave NASA posted a job opening with his exact job description. He was also allegedly moved to an office that more closely resembled “a janitor’s closet”. After various conferences with his supervisors he was terminated.
His suit claims unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation for taking medical leave. He seeks lost wages/benefits, damage to reputation, mental anguish and other damages.
The defendants have not yet responded, though the case has been set for a scheduling conference with Magistrate Frances Stacy in Federal District Court in Houston.