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Lawsuit: FedEx Fires Driver Over Russian Accent

By PAUL FOY

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) â¿¿ A Utah truck driver alleges FedEx fired him because of his Russian accent, even though he offered to appear before corporate higher-ups to demonstrate his English-speaking abilities.

Ismail Aliyev has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Memphis, Tenn.-based shipping company and the long-haul contractor that employed him and was ordered to do the firing.

Aliyev worked for GNB Trucking Co. in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley. The small business owns and operates FedEx-branded trucks and provides uniformed drivers for FedEx. Aliyev says his trouble started months into the job when an Iowa weigh station gave his company a warning â¿¿ but not a citation â¿¿ about his Russian accent. One of the requirements of holding a commercial driver's license is the ability to communicate.

"I think for a driver, my English is not too bad," said Aliyev, now an independent trucker, who spoke to The Associated Press by cellphone briefly Wednesday while driving in Nebraska.

Aliyev has an accent "but it's very understandable," said Robert H. Wilde, his lawyer. "GNB said he was an excellent employee and would like to keep him, but it was instructed by FedEx to terminate him."

Wilde said the firing was ordered by a FedEx manager who didn't bother to speak with Aliyev, and that Aliyev offered to fly to FedEx headquarters to show off his language skills but was turned down.

Erin Truxal, a FedEx Ground spokeswoman in Moon Township, Pa., confirmed that Aliyev was employed by the independent contractor GNB Trucking but declined to comment further. A message left at FedEx's corporate headquarters wasn't returned Wednesday.

Aliyev's son said it wasn't the first time the family had experienced discrimination. As Turks in Russia, they were forced to flee in 2005, landing in Utah as political refugees, Elshad Aliyev said.

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