One former and two current employees at FedEx’s LAX location were collectively awarded millions of dollars after a jury found they were wrongfully disciplined by the courier giant after coming forward to report their allegations that the company put profits ahead of safety by not maintaining its aircraft consistent with FAA safety requirements.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for more than a week before reaching its verdicts on Oct. 19. The retaliation suit was filed by fired FedEx aircraft mechanic Brian Gruzalski and Stanley Langevin and Mark Collins, who still work for FedEx.
Gruzalski was awarded $855,000 in compensatory damages and $3.8 million in punitive damages. Collins was awarded $260,000 in compensatory damages and $2.75 million in punitive damages.
Langevin received $144,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
FedEx attorney Jane Flynn maintained during her final arguments that Gruzalski deserved to be fired for allegedly using inappropriate language in the workplace, some of it racial. She said he did not deny making the offensive remarks.
Flynn said Langevin was demoted for allegedly moonlighting on company time for other airlines with FedEx equipment and that Collins did not use his authority as the others’ supervisor to stop their behavior.
Flynn said that although the FedEx jets are older than others in the fleet, they are all flightworthy.
Gruzalski, 50, of Canyon Country waited until some of the FedEx planes left on delivery flights before making his safety allegations, Flynn said.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Nancy Abrolat said Flynn’s frequent references to Gruzalski’s language in the workplace was meant to “divert attention away from safety.”
Langevin, 69, of Long Beach has more than 40 years experience as an aircraft technician and also is an Air Force veteran. He maintains he was retaliated against when he complained about the condition of many FedEx aircraft.
“Langevin uncovered a calculated, illegal scheme by FedEx whereby FedEx routinely and knowingly returned non-airworthy aircraft to service despite the need for further repair/maintenance in order to comply with federal aviation regulations,” the suit stated. “FedEx was more concerned with returning the aircraft to flight quickly and cheaply in order to increase their profits than with ensuring compliance with the federal aviation regulations.
The suit cited as examples what it alleges are routine failures to repair corrosion extensive enough to crack the aircraft’s outer frame before allowing them to be flown.
Collins, 60, of Claremont is a Navy veteran who fought in the Persian Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm. He said he faced a backlash because he defended Langevin.
“Collins fully supported Langevin’s complaints and voiced his own complaints regarding the same illegal practices,” the suit stated. “Collins further objected to and refused to be a party to FedEx’s pattern of retaliation against the whistle-blowers.”
FedEx management responded by refusing to promote Collins, by “screaming at him” and by treating him in a “hostile and rude manner” as well as shunning him, the suit stated.
Collins also maintained FedEx failed to assist him in making it easier for him to cope at work with his Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.