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After Serving His Country, Driver Denied Right to Return

Rich FarrellRich Farrell was a FedEx Ground driver for the Camden, NJ, terminal. He also serves as a medic in the Army National Guard. He was activated on September 11, 2001, and in December 2003 Farrell informed his terminal manager that he would soon be deployed overseas for six months. His manager informed him that they would hire someone to deliver his route while he was away. In January 2004, FedEx Ground gave Farrell 30 days notice that it would not renew his contract, which expired the next month. Dave McMahon, a fellow driver, approached their manager and asked why Farrell was terminated. According to McMahon, the manager replied, “What, do you think we were going to hold his contract until he gets done playing Army?”

After serving overseas, Farrell met with a military lawyer who informed him that since FedEx Ground classified him as an independent contractor, he was not protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The Act prohibits employers from discriminating against those who serve in the National Guard or other uniformed services. If Farrell was classified as an employee, USERRA would have protected him from termination when he was deployed and given him the right to reclaim his route when he returned.

Farrell returned home in January 2005 and was not able to find a full-time job until April 2006. He tried calling his old terminal to inquire about getting a route, but no one returned his messages. He sold his $40,000 truck on eBay for a mere $13,000. Farrell summarized his experience at FedEx Ground: “I kind of took a beating.”

Rich Farrell and Dave McMahon, personal interviews, by Erin Johansson, March 2007.