Fed Ex rulings recognize employee abuse by corporation
Fed Ex, long accused of violating state and federal statutes governing the treatment of employees, lost two cases recently. The first was Wallace v. FedEx Corporation, a Sixth Circuit case in which Wallace argued that FedEx wrongfully terminated the female plaintiff in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act [FMLA]. In a more far-reaching decision, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Fed Ex wrongfully categorized employee drivers as "independent contractors" in order to deny them statutory employment rights.
The Ninth Circuit holding was issued on August 27 and is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. That Court's 5-4 conservative Republican majority will likely uphold employment practices by FedEx that were previously deemed illegal. In Alexander v. FedEx Ground, the Ninth Circuit concluded that since FedEx closely controls the "manner and means of accomplishing" the employees' work," they are, in fact, not independent. It cited the restrictions on appearance imposed by FedEx, the standards and requirements applied to employee vehicles, the daily hours and assignments, reporting times and locations, and the narrow control of geographic regions.
The Wallace case involved a decision to fire Ms. Wallace, employed by FedEx since 1986, after she missed two days' work. She had a history of health and attendance problems. Her supervisor at FedEx had asked her to fill out an FMLA form but had not explained that if she failed to do so, she would be terminated. The next time she missed two consecutive days, she was fired.
She filed suit and a jury awarded her $158,000.00. The judge reduced the verdict to $98,000.00. Both parties appealed and the Sixth Circuit upheld the award, while rejecting the Judge's reduction of the verdict.