FedEx, the shipping giant, is being dragged to court by a Russian-born US citizen who claims he was fired because of his thick but “perfectly understandable” Russian accent. Ismail Aliyev says discrimination and stereotyping were at the root of his dismissal.
Until August 2011, Aliyev worked for an independent contractor, GNB Trucking, working with FedEx. At one point, he and an employee of the same contractor (not of the shipping giant) had a misunderstanding which resulted in a written warning for Aliyev.
In just a few weeks, he was told he was being let go because of his inability to communicate properly because of his bad English. The ability to communicate is a prerequisite of being a commercial driver, KSL
After the notice, Aliyev offered to meet with FedEx people to convince them that his English, though marked by a thick Russian accent, was understandable, posing no threat to good communication between himself and others.
He was repeatedly turned down, the lawsuit claims. Even before that, Aliyev had had no contact with anyone from FedEx, because he was working for a company contracting with FedEx.
“The termination of plaintiff because of his accent is in effect a termination because of his national origin,” the lawsuit claims.
Though Aliyev had already found a new job (he’s currently self-employed), he was making more money before. More importantly, he believes being fired for his accent is sending the wrong message, hence the lawsuit.
“I think it sends the message that his hard work and desire to improve himself is not appreciated. He's got a thick accent but he's very understandable,” his attorney, Robert Wilde, says for the aforementioned media outlet.
FedEx is currently looking into the circumstances that led to Aliyev’s firing, refusing to comment.
The lawsuit is asking for an unspecified amount that would cover lost wages and punitive damages.