October 24, 2007

Erin Johansson

Fed Up With FedEx

When is a FedEx worker not a FedEx employee? When it benefits the FedEx Corporation.  In a new report, Fed Up With FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights at Civil Rights, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and American Rights at Work document the widespread use of employee misclassification at FedEx Ground, which denies workers’ fundamental civil rights and workplace protections.

» Download the report: Fed Up With FedEx (PDF)

Executive Summary

America’s workers have fought long and hard for workplace dignity and a fair share of our nation’s economic prosperity. With the help of leaders from the civil rights and labor movements, workers have achieved passage of vital workplace laws guaranteeing important rights such as the right to form a union and the right to equal opportunity. These laws have helped to overcome workplace discrimination and improve living standards, especially for women, minorities, and the working poor, thus making America a more equal society. Today some of America’s most respected corporations have begun a sustained effort to exploit weaknesses in these laws and unravel much of the progress workers have made.

FedEx Corporation is a striking example of a company widely considered to be a pillar of American success and corporate responsibility. Unfortunately, FedEx is contributing to the deepening problem of inequality in our society. FedEx’s troubling labor practices are masked by the company’s globally-recognized brand name and its reputation for both getting the job done and being a great place to work. Most Americans remain unaware of what has become an insidious pattern of anti-union conduct and efforts to subvert labor and discrimination law that call FedEx’s reputation into question.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and American Rights at Work shed light on a disturbing pattern at the driver delivery section of FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation, in Fed Up with FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights and Civil Rights. At the heart of this problem is the claim that FedEx Ground misclassified approximately 15,000 of its drivers as independent contractors, placing them outside the protection of numerous labor and employment laws.

Millions of Americans are classified as independent contractors but essentially work as employees. Under the law, true independent contractors are supposed to enjoy entrepreneurial control over the methods they use to do their work. But these misclassified workers suffer the worst of both worlds: they are without meaningful control over their work and they are without the legal protections and benefits of employees. Nonetheless, employers persist in their misclassification, attempting to convince courts and other agencies that their workers are independent contractors in order to avoid their legal obligations to their workers.

Employee misclassification at FedEx Ground has thwarted workers’ attempts to assert their workplace rights. Additionally, significant violations of labor and employment laws have been alleged against FedEx Ground. These charges and workers’ accounts reveal that when FedEx Ground drivers attempt to form unions, they are subject to intimidation, interrogation, and firings. Court cases filed by FedEx Ground drivers allege workplace discrimination and harassment, including ongoing racial and ethnic slurs. As purported independent contractors, and not employees, drivers must first undergo long, expensive, and arduous court processes to prove that they are in fact employees of FedEx Ground before they can begin to seek redress for violations of their civil or workers’ rights.

This report exposes pernicious and widespread use of worker misclassification at FedEx Ground, which tramples workers’ rights and civil rights. It concludes with recommendations for the redress and prevention of future violations, including:

  1. Urge FedEx Corporation to comply in good faith with labor laws.
  2. Increase public awareness to make corporations more accountable for undermining America’s promise of equality and economic advancement.
  3. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act to better protect the freedom to form unions.
  4. Improve enforcement of existing laws, encourage federal and state legislatures and agencies to close loopholes, and enact strong new protections for workers.
  5. Improve procedures and increase congressional oversight of the National Labor Relations Board.

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