FedEx Corp. was ordered Monday to pay $5.3 million to a Laguna Niguel man who said he was fired in 2016, after 25 years at the company, for complaining about how management treated him when he suffered a serious on-the-job injury.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about 1 3/4 days before finding in favor of 51-year-old Harold Carter on his claims for retaliation, failure to accommodate and failure to engage in the interactive process.
After the verdict was handed down, the plaintiff told City News Service that he worked at FedEx facilities in Irvine and at Los Angeles International Airport.
“I spent just about my entire life there and I hoping to retire there,” Carter said.
However, he called his case an isolated one and said he would not discourage others from working for FedEx.
FedEx attorneys maintained that the courier delivery service company committed no wrongdoing and that Carter lost his job because he had three disciplinary write-ups in a year for time card process errors and for not paying two employees the correct number of work hours.
Carter began working for FedEx in June 1991 as a part-cargo handler and worked his way up to a full-time management position in 1995, according to his court papers. He said he suffered a spinal cord injury in December 2014 when a large box fell on his head, causing him to be hospitalized for three days.
Carter was cleared by his doctor to return to work in January 2015 so long as he was not required to drive a truck or lift more than 10 pounds. But instead of accommodating him with a desk job, FedEx management told him he could not come back on the job without a “100 percent release to full duty,” the suit alleged. He claimed he was also was told to return within 90 days or lose his management position.
Carter came back to work in May 2015 and instead of accommodating him because of his limitations, his workload was actually increased compared to others, the suit alleged. He filed an internal complaint alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation in November 2015 and was fired eight months later, according to his lawsuit.
FedEx never interviewed Carter about his internal grievance, according to his court papers, which said other managers who made errors similar to those allegedly committed by Carter were not fired.