The FedEx driver who sued and won

Reggie Grey imagined doing work for FedEx was his ticket to a much better life.

It turned out to be everything but: His years as a driver for FedEx Floor ended with him submitting for individual bankruptcy and using the organization to court.

Grey is one of the countless numbers of FedEx ( FDX ) motorists who have sued the business for classifying them as contractors, relatively than personnel. A lot of, including Gray, have received.

“We all signed up for what we considered was the American desire,” stated Grey. “We obtained the exact opposite. It was a truly poor offer.”

The FedEx Floor division, produced in 2000, delivers tiny deals to residences and companies nationwide. But its army of 32,500 uniformed drivers, managers and affiliated personnel are classified as contractors, a controversial plan that permits FedEx to conserve on overall health rewards, unemployment insurance policies, retirement accounts and extra time pay out, between other items.

“This is an intentional coverage on the part of FedEx Floor to deny motorists their rights as staff,” explained Erin Johansson, research director at Positions with Justice, a labor legal rights team.

For Grey, it all commenced when he still left his work in 2002 as a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Support in Missouri, and signed a contract with FedEx Floor. He thought it would be a great way to start off his personal independent organization with the backing of a key brand.

But Grey rapidly realized he wasn’t truly independent. In fact, FedEx controlled almost all the facets of his enterprise, even although he experienced to place up a lot of his possess cash.

Grey experienced to purchase his delivery route for $ five,000. He purchased his personal van for $ 17,000. FedEx afterwards produced him to get one more car for $ 11,000 and employ a 2nd driver when his route got so hectic that a single van was not ample to produce all the deals. The cars needed consistent upkeep — oil adjustments, brakes, transmission and radiator replacements — and all came out of his possess pocket.

He compensated for FedEx uniforms and decals for his vans, company mapping computer software and also leased a FedEx scanner for the bundle bar codes. He also had to pay for Office of Transportation inspections and random drug assessments the company essential.

Gray explained FedEx supervisors in the terminal exactly where he worked hounded him about the problem of the tires on his van and the perform of a driver he hired to support him with his route.

His supervisors consistently threatened to revoke his contract and docked his shell out with inflated “statements” for lost packages. In a single case, he explained the firm charged him $ one,600 for a $ 400 box of vitamins that he failed to produce.

The debts piled up and Grey was pressured to file individual bankruptcy in 2008. The financial turmoil took a toll on his relationship, which finished in divorce. He practically dropped his home.

“This whole ordeal cost me a lot, it actually did,” said Gray. “Financially, it was a large, massive strike. And the strain of that fat was crushing.”

The tipping stage for Grey arrived when the IRS reviewed a duplicate of his contract and told him that he was really an staff of FedEx, which implied that he was getting rid of out on suitable positive aspects. He went online and identified other motorists in the identical circumstance. Soon after his makes an attempt to work items out with FedEx have been unsuccessful, Gray decided to take legal action. (The IRS would not remark on person situations.)

In 2006, he and a number of other motorists submitted a lawsuit in opposition to FedEx in search of compensation for worker rewards and shell out that have been denied.

Soon after numerous several years in courtroom, a jury sided with the motorists this earlier April. Gray was awarded a lot more than $ 90,000 in damages.

FedEx mentioned: “We will attractiveness the court’s choice in this case.”

FedEx drivers have received some important legal battles not too long ago. Courts in Oregon, California and Kansas have ruled that FedEx Floor drivers fit the legal definition of an staff. The Nationwide Labor Relations Board dominated on September 30 that motorists in Connecticut are FedEx employees. A choice is expected soon from the Seventh Circuit court of appeals, which has jurisdiction over instances in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The business is presently going through thirty more lively lawsuits from former contractors in a number of states.

FedEx factors out that the ruling in Gray’s case runs counter to far more than 100 other situations where courts have upheld its plan of classifying drivers as unbiased contractors.

Even so, which is a portion of the lawsuits previous FedEx contractors have filed in opposition to the firm, stated Catherine Ruckelshaus, common counsel at the Countrywide Employment Regulation Undertaking.

“FedEx in fact loses a lot more of these circumstances than it wins,” said Ruckelshaus, who has followed lawsuits from FedEx intently. “But because calling motorists contractors is this sort of a profitable apply, they hold performing it.”

FedEx disputes that it has misplaced more circumstances than it has gained, and stands by its work coverage.

Beneath pressure from Attorneys Standard in many U.S. states, FedEx Floor altered its policy in 2011. The drivers are still not FedEx workers. But the firm now contracts with incorporated firms that agree to deal with workers as workers. That way, motorists get basic protections essential by regulation this sort of as personnel payment coverage and unemployment insurance coverage. But again it’s the contractor that gives those protections, not FedEx Ground.

FedEx’s coverage is in stark distinction with its major rival. UPS classifies all of its drivers as personnel. As customers of the Teamsters Union, UPS ( UPS ) motorists have substantial bargaining power.

FedEx just lately started out monitoring how significantly money its contractors make. The firm says the average company with about four drivers every provides in $ 443,000 a yr in earnings.

Gray’s route, which he worked with a single further driver, brought in much less.

Just before taxes and expenditures, Gray mentioned he brought in among $ 50,000 and $ 70,000 for each 12 months. Following spending all his dues, insurance coverage and the other driver, Gray’s internet income ranged between $ twenty five,000 and $ 35,000 for every yr. At that rate, Grey was earning around minimum wage while placing in 12 to 16 hour days.

The court’s choice for Gray has been a tough-gained struggle, even though it’s caught when far more in FedEx appeals limbo.

“The guys and women in that terminal produced this organization hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands of bucks,” said Gray, 44, who is now back again functioning for the postal provider as a letter provider. “For this business to knowingly and willingly do this to us — it really is incorrect.”