An Arab-American who is a former employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers has filed suit against the firm, claiming he was terminated after he told an internal newsletter that he thought "there is room for improvement" in PwC's diversity practices.

Issam Azziz, a 37-year-old who worked as a senior audit manager in the firm's Tampa office, said he received a "performance note" from the firm three days after making the comments, which were not included in the newsletter. The performance note criticized the way he had treated subordinates, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

He was dismissed in July 2009, even though he believed he was on track to become a partner and had won an award from the firm. His lawsuit is being supported by the Council of Islamic Relations' Tampa office.

Azziz filed the lawsuit after complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were decided unfavorably. Azziz and his attorney, Peter Helwig, are asking for reinstatement to his former job, back pay for wages lost, and damages for emotional distress caused by the alleged discrimination and retaliation.

PwC disputed the lawsuit, which was filed in August. "These claims have no merit, and PwC intends to defend this case vigorously," PwC attorney Caroline Nolan says.

Helwig contends his client's claims were given only superficial attention by the EEOC, saying the decision against his client is a "pretty standard response when you file complaints with these agencies. They are understaffed and overworked, and the investigations tend to be pretty superficial."

Cohn writes for Accounting Today, a Source Media publication.

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