Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Got Cancer? FedEx will fire you...only if you're an "independent contractor"

Jean Capobianco...you won't meet a braver cancer survivor.

I was just introduced to Jean in this article I ran across on NY Times by Steven Greenhouse.

For more than 10 years Jean and her husband drover a truck together, hauling hazardous waste. After being diagnosed with cancer for the 2nd time and going through a mastectomy her husband decided that he didn't want to be married to her anymore.

After recovering from all of this and getting enough strength to go back to work, she found a job with Roadway Package Systems delivering packages. To her surprise, she was hired on as an "independent contractor", not an employee.

After suffering a back injury lifting packages she had to take 2 years off of work. But, before she could come back to work FedEx acquired Roadway Package Systems and the "rules" had drastically changed. She now had to buy her own truck and pay for her own gas and repairs.

Check out this next quote from the article...To attract drivers, FedEx Ground often runs ads claiming that its drivers earn $60,000 to $80,000 a year. Many drivers say those ads are deceiving. Gross income can exceed $60,000, but Jean, echoing many drivers, said she had to pay nearly $800 a month for her truck, $125 a week for gas, $55 a week for business equipment, $4,000 a year for insurance policies, plus outlays for tires, maintenance and repairs. Some years, Jean calculated, her net pay was just $32,000, amounting to $10.25 an hour.

Next, for the 3rd time, she was diagnosed with cancer - but this time it ovarian cancer. They removed the tumor and performed a hysterectomy but that next week they found Stage 4 cancer that had spread to her lungs.

Remember that she was still an "independent contractor" before reading this next quote...

She fully expected to return to her job in January, and called FedEx Ground’s headquarters to request a leave of absence. Weeks later, a letter arrived saying she was terminated.

Yes, you read the quote correctly...

Her husband has left her and she's been able to survive cancer 4 times...and this appears to be just another hurdle that she has to go through.

Now, for the justification and response from FedEx...

FedEx Ground officials said they had sympathy for Jean but had to terminate her under company rules, because she was no longer covering her route and she hadn’t found a replacement driver.

Company officials said they were free to terminate her because in FedEx’s view she was an independent contractor and therefore not protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. That law requires companies to make reasonable accommodations to keep employees who have cancer or other disabilities. Jean has sued FedEx, asserting that it violated the act.

Wow...I can't believe I just read that. Sure, FedEx may be following the letter of the law very carefully but what about the public relations nightmare that FedEx is now receiving?

Would you say they would get your vote for being an Employer Of Choice? Nope.


Jacob Johansen said...

Though I sympathize with someone who has been so cancer-stricken, I think FedEx was within their rights for this case.

Jean, was an independent contractor, who essentially owned her own unreliable business; she was self-employed. Fedex had time sensitive packages to deliver, and she couldn't deliver them.

She knew when she became an independent contractor that Fedex would be her client, not her employer. Every independent contractor also is aware that he/she can be terminated at anytime and that there are no guarantees.

She's playing the sympathy card here in hopes of hitting it big with a lawsuit, when indeed she has no real legitimate claim.

The real PR nightmare is the Wal-Mart story that came out a few weeks back.

Anonymous said...

I'm going thru something similar with Fedex. They are not supportive or compassionate at all.
I feel for Jean. Having Cancer changes your life and causes stress. Where is the understanding and compassion?