BUSINESS
11/02/2012 05:05 pm ET

FedEx Forced 'Involuntary' Wage Deductions On Driver, Lawsuit Claims

Carlos Rocha, a former FedEx driver, has sued the delivery company for allegedly defrauding him, among a host of other alleged violations.

Rocha, who worked for FedEx between 2006 and 2010, claims in the lawsuit that FedEx Ground stole money from him and took advantage of him to avoid legal liabilities and taxes. He filed the complaint in an Illinois circuit court on Oct. 30.

The lawsuit includes a laundry list of complaints. From Courthouse News Service:

Rocha's 104-page complaint, filed by Lisa Johnson with Anchor Law Offices of West Palm Beach, includes 16 causes of action, including RICO violations, restraint of trade, unlawful tying arrangements, consumer fraud, deceptive trade, fraudulent inducement, tortious interference, illegal deductions from wages, breach of operating agreement, breach of faith, unjust enrichment and retaliatory firing.

FedEx Ground called the lawsuit's claims "meritless" in a statement. "We are confident that in this case the company's independent contractor model will be validated as it has been by more than 100 previous state and federal rulings," Angela Wheland, a spokeswoman for FedEx Ground, said in a statement. "This business model has enabled thousands of small businesses to thrive, grow and deliver exceptional customer service."

In the complaint, Rocha calls his original agreement with FedEx "onerous and one-sided," something he blames on the company identifying drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. He also claims that FedEx often did not always follow the agreement, that the company used "threat, intimidation and sheer force" to ensure continued cooperation, and that FedEx security sometimes "physically assaulted" other workers.

According to Rocha, FedEx took away his ability to hire his own help but nevertheless forced him to pay their wages and work accident and workers' compensation insurance costs through "unlawful and involuntary" wage deductions, as well as their training and screening costs.

The suit also details one incident that Rocha says nearly cost him his life. He says that in 2007, FedEx made him drive even when he told them he was sick, and that he "almost died on the road when his gall bladder burst." To make matters worse, the complaint claims, FedEx eventually fired the helper who was in his truck at the time and took him to the hospital.

FedEx has faced lawsuits in the past for identifying its drivers as contractors instead of employees. In 2010, the delivery company paid $2.3 million to settle charges that it had failed to pay unemployment insurance for its drivers. A year-long investigation by Montana's attorney general found that FedEx treated its drivers as employees but misidentified them as contractors to avoid giving them benefits.

[H/T: Courthouse News Service.]

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