Russian Trucker Hits Language Barrier

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. — A Utah truck driver has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against FedEx and long-haul contractor GNB Trucking Co., for allegedly firing him due to his Russian accent.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Ismail Aliyev claimed his ordeal began months into the job with GNB Trucking, when an Iowa weigh station gave his company a non-citation warning about his inability to speak English clearly.

“I think for a driver, my English is not too bad,” Aliyev told AP via cellphone, adding that he tried to protest the accusations by offering to prove his English-speaking abilities to FedEx top brass, but was denied the chance.

FedEx later issued a termination order for Aliyev to his employer, GNB Trucking, a small local business that owns and operates FedEx-branded trucks.

Aliyev has an accent, “but it’s very understandable,” said Robert 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 claimed that the manager who fired Aliyev should have at least agreed to meet with him like Aliyev initially offered.

GNB Manager Ben Ishhanov said Aliyev’s predicament couldn’t really be changed anyway, since FedEx solely controls the hiring and firing of its truck drivers.

“We haven’t fired anyone for that. If FedEx told us to fire a driver, we can’t do anything about that. Some guys don’t know any English. That’s the problem,” he said, speculating that Aliyev had initially flunked an English test given by a FedEx field office following his hiring.

But Aliyev’s son, Elshad, denied such a claim.

“He was told to write something on a blackboard and read some papers,” he said, pointing out that his father can be a little hard to understand at times. “But if you talk to him in person, you can communicate well enough.”

Aliyev’s ability to communicate still raises questions, after a ticket obtained by the Associated Press showed that FedEx stated Aliyev’s safety violations “disqualified” him as a long-haul contract driver.

According to AP, an Iowa court found him guilty of three infractions, as Aliyev was allegedly cited for “an inability to speak English clearly”, unsafe backing at an Iowa weigh station, and driving for 14 hours, which surpasses federal regulations that limit truckers to 11 hours of driving at a time.

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