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FEATURED VERDICT: FedEx Ordered To Pay $8 Million For Whistle-blower Retaliation Related to Improper Safety Maintenance

Case No. BC512638

On October 19, 2018, a Los Angeles County jury awarded one current and two former FedEx Employees a cumulative total of $8,008,817 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit alleged that that Fedex, in an effort to cut costs, ordered that maintenance staff reduce the amount of time spent repairing older aircraft by approximately 33%. As a consequence, Fedex offered management bonuses for getting airplanes out faster and the lawsuit claimed that the end result was that its mechanics frequently signed off on shoddy and incomplete repairs. Subsequently, Gruzalski and Langevin complained to management, but FedEx allegedly did not investigate and instead ordered Collins to write up both employees. When Collins refused, Fedex warned him that he would be written up if he continued to refuse. Ultimately, FedEx terminated Gruzalski, demoted Langevin, and denied Collins a promotion.

FedEx denied the allegations in the suit and instead offered evidence that its actions against the three employees were justified on legitimate business grounds and that, while many of the planes in its fleet were old, that they were flight worthy. Specifically, FedEx maintained they terminated Gruzalski for using inappropriate language, including racially derogatory language; that FedEx demoted Langevin for moonlighting for other airlines with FedEx equipment; and that FedEx denied Collins a promotion for failing to appropriately stop this behavior.

After deliberating for more than a week, the jury found in favor of all three plaintiffs for their claims of retaliation. Specifically, Brian Gruzalski, a former employee and airplane mechanic, was awarded $855,000 in compensatory damages and $3.8 million in punitive damages; Stanely Langevin, a Gruzalski’s former supervior, was awarded $144,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages; and Mark Collins, current employee and former manager, was awarded $260,000 in compensatory damages and $2.75 million in punitive damages.