Three recently fired Federal Express employees in Albany say their workplace was and continues to be run in an intimidating manner by a manager who employs a sex-crazed, violent supervisor as his “henchman.”
The three ousted workers claim that FedEx Senior Manager Gary Acker’s second-in-command, Theresa Browne, is a “henchman” who makes sexual advances to subordinates. Public records show that Browne has been involved in two recent physical altercations that resulted in police being called to FedEx’s Gordon Avenue facility. She was not charged in either instance.
Two of the three ousted workers also say that one of their co-workers transported illegal narcotics on his route; and one says he anonymously reported the worker after being recruited to participate in the trafficking scheme. And the three claim that Acker avoids issuing customer refunds and thus boosts his performance record by falsifying documents to indicate that late packages were delivered on time.
Local FedEx management referred questions to the corporation’s headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., where a spokesman said all of the fired workers’ claims were fully investigated and without merit.
“All of the allegations by these individuals were found to be baseless” by FedEx officials in Memphis who investigated the claims, said Sandra Munoz, a FedEx communications manager.
A sexual harassment claim against Browne, an operations manager, is the subject of a federal discrimination complaint by 17-year FedEx driver Robert Hodge of Albany, who says he was fired last year after spurning Browne’s advances. Hodge says Browne terminated him after he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against her.
Kevin Shakur of Albany, meanwhile, says he was fired last week and that Browne remains on the job after Shukur dialied 911 when Browne shoved him during an argument. Police said Browne denied Shakur’s charge and claimed another FedEx employee witnessed the incident. But when police questioned the employee, the employee said Browne was mistaken and that he did not see what happened.
“He got fired for following policy, for going (outside until police arrived) when his supervisor physical assaulted him,” Hodge said of Shakur, who had been on the job about six months. “That’s what they do to people they want to terminate. They will say that you had disruptive conduct. They are nasty to the core like that …
“Sex, violence, drugs, cover-up. Fed-Ex in Albany has it all.”
In 2008, Katherine Kendrick told police that Browne pushed her moments after firing Kendrick because she was attempting to file an internal complaint against Browne on a computer terminal.
“By keeping her (Browne) on the job after all the complaints against her, they are condoning violence,” Shakur said.
Shakur also says that he notified FedEx official after being recruited by a driver to traffic drugs on his route, but that the complaint wasn’t investigated. Another Albany resident, Darryl Williams, says he was fired in 2008 after 12 years because of trumped-up, racially motivated charges by Acker. Williams, Shakur, Hodge and Browne are black; Acker is white.
Browne did not respond to a message left by the Journal. Indeed, a FedEx employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that employees were ordered this week not to speak to reporters because of the complaints being made by Hodge, Shakur and Williams.
Shakur, Williams and Hodge sought out the Journal to tell their story, and each says he is contemplating civil litigation against Fed Ex.
FedEx is an international mail, package and freight delivery company. It has about 3,400 sites and 29,000 employees in the United States, and about 40 percent of its workforce is non-white. It is historically cited by employees as being among the best places in the United Sates to work.
Munoz said that FedEx officials have safeguards in place to ensure that harassment and other misdeeds don’t take place at work sites. All managers have open-door policies for grievances to be aired; fair treatment is guaranteed to all employees who feel they have been wronged; and corporate officials in Memphis investigate every local complaint, Munoz said.
“Many decisions made by lower-level management are overturned in favor of the employee,” Munoz said. “They are always investigated by professionals outside the work locations … I do want to emphasize and I can’t find a strong-enough word to tell you how much the company is intolerant of workplace violence, or harassment or retaliation. The company has some very strong policies in place …
“To suggest that this is going on … would have to imply, quite frankly, that there was a cover-up all the way here to Memphis.”
But Williams said that a FedEx human resources official from Louisiana who is closely associated to Acker, who supervises sites throughout the South Georgia and North Florida region, typically conducts the investigations.
“These people who do these so-called investigations are on the Fed Ex payroll,” Williams said. “There is no union so you are kind of out there by yourself. You don’t have an independent individual looking into those things. And retaliation for making complaints is (common).”
Hodge, meanwhile, says that four witnesses in his complaint against FedEx were never interviewed and that all four were ultimately fired by FedEx.
Hodge already has won a battle against FedEx. In a rare occurrence, Dougherty Superior Court Judge Steve Goss overturned the Georgia Department of Labor Board of Rule’s denial of unemployment compensation benefits to Hodge.
“… Mr. Hodge was not terminated for work performance but for insubordination,” Goss said in his ruling. “Federal Express contends that his indicated that he had ‘no comment’ and sitting silently amounted to a fault ground to terminate a 17-year employee.
“There is no copy of any such Federal Express policy manual or employee guideline in the certified record herein.”
Goss said in his ruling that FedEx officials did not respond to the court’s certified-mail request to participate in his December 2009 hearing, which was held after FedEx officials were no-shows for an October hearing before Goss. Munoz said that FedEx officials in Albany claim to have not known about the hearings.
By Kevin Hogencamp