Harold Carter spent a full quarter of a century working for FedEx. He always envisioned that he’d retire from the giant shipping company—with benefits. But in 2016, that dream came to a screeching halt with Niguel was fired from his job as retaliation to his complaints about a serious workplace injury. Now the Los Angeles Superior Court has decided that the 51-year-old was wrongfully terminated, and they say FedEx should pay up—to the tune of $5.3 million.
It took the jury nearly two days of deliberation to weigh all the facts in the case. Carter claimed retaliation, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to accommodate in his suit against FedEx. Carter worked at FedEx’s facilities at LAX and also in Irvine. According to Carter, “I spent just about my entire life there.”
Attorneys for FedEx say that the company did nothing wrong. Carter lost his job, they say, due to having three disciplinary writeups with a one-year period. They accuse him of “time card process errors” and “not paying two employees the correct number of work hours.”
Carter, who started with the company in 1991, began his career as a cargo handler and then worked his way up to management just four years later. In 2014, he suffered a spinal cord injury when a box fell on his head. He was hospitalized three days as a result. Although Carter received medical clearance to return to work the next month, it was under the stipulation that he not lift more than 10 pounds or be required to drive a truck.
Carter says that FedEx management failed to accommodate his injury when they would not agree to a desk position. Instead, they told him to not come back without a 100 percent release to full duty. They subsequently advised him that he must return to work within a 90-day period or he would lose his position in management.
In May of 2015, Carter returned to work. Again, instead of accommodating him due to his medically imposed limitations, his superior increased his workload in comparison to other employees, Carter says. Through the filing of an internal complaint in 2015, Carter alleged discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Carter says that FedEx never investigated his internal grievances. Eight months later, he was terminated.
Under California law, workers who file workers comp or other claims due to workplace injuries cannot be the focus of retaliation based on their claims. Because California is an “at will” state in terms of employment, employees without contracts can be terminated for any lawful reason at any time. Many employers attempt to circumvent the illegal firing process by claiming that an employee was performing below standard or missing work too often, among other excuses. However, an adept and knowledgeable attorney can generally provide evidence to show when employers overstep and wrongful termination occurs.
At the Kaufman Law Office, we have a solid reputation for protecting the rights of workers. If you have experienced an illegal firing, give our wrongful termination lawyer a call now at (310) 981-3404 to discuss your case.