A safety citation obtained Friday confirmed that a former FedEx driver in Utah — now suing for discrimination — had been cited for violations of federal trucking regulations.
The violations in Iowa led to the termination of Ismail Aliyev, who was a long-haul contract driver, FedEx said.
Aliyev claims he was fired because of his Russian accent, and he disputes the ticket that called him a "non-English speaking driver."
He insisted in several phone conversations with The Associated Press that he speaks English well enough and was willing to demonstrate it to FedEx managers and executives but was turned down.
In response, FedEx Ground spokeswoman Erin Truxal said the company "disqualified" Aliyev because he had received several safety citations, and not just over his English-speaking abilities.
The records obtained from Iowa's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement and the state court system show the driver was cited at an Iowa weigh station in August 2011 for an inability to speak English clearly.
He also was ticketed for unsafe backing on a highway ramp and driving for 14 hours, which exceeds the 11-hour limit. The records show an Iowa court found Aliyev guilty of all three infractions a month later.
At first, Aliyev and his lawyer said he had received only a warning in Iowa— not a citation — about his Russian accent.
The lawyer, Robert H. Wilde, said Friday he had been unaware of his client's safety violations. Wilde said FedEx mentioned a language problem but no safety violations when it responded to a complaint by the driver at the Utah Anti-Discrimination and Labor Division.
Wilde said he still planned to pursue a lawsuit against FedEx and the long-haul contractor that employed Aliyev and was ordered to do the firing.
GNB Trucking Co. in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley has said FedEx controls the hiring and firing of its drivers and a host of other business terms.
One of the requirements of holding a commercial driver's license is the ability to communicate, although the rule is open to interpretation.
"I think for a driver, my English is not too bad," Aliyev has said.
His lawyer says a FedEx manager ordered the firing without bothering to talk with Aliyev, and that the driver even offered to fly to FedEx headquarters to demonstrate his language skills but was turned down.
FedEx is arguing it can't be sued because Aliyev didn't work directly for the company, but Wilde says FedEx dictated the terms of employment for GNB drivers down to their compensation and the routes and loads they were to deliver.
FedEx even provided contract drivers with uniforms, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 23 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.