Lawsuit: Latina women targeted for sexual assault by FedEx cleaning contractor in Nashville and Mount Juliet

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Two Latina women who worked for a cleaning services contractor at FedEx facilities in Nashville and Mount Juliet were subject to repeated sexual harassment, including rape, and threats of retaliation by a supervisor, according to allegations contained in a federal lawsuit that seeks class action status on behalf of the largely female, immigrant workforce.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court last week, accuses Allied Facility Care — a FedEx contractor that provides janitorial services — of failing to fire the “sexual predator” supervisor for years, even after the supervisor’s arrest for assault in 2017. And it accuses FedEx officials of turning a blind eye to reports of the alleged abuse.

“Instead, Allied allowed the predator to retain control over (the two women) and other foreign-born, Hispanic women,” the lawsuit said. The filing alleges that Fedex decided to keep Allied, and its local supervisor, because it would “cost too much to change contractors.”

The lawsuit claims the supervisor accused of predatory behavior — Samuel Perez —was kept on the job by his bosses even after he was criminally charged with assault in 2017. It alleges that the supervisor offered women for sex with both FedEx and Allied Facility employees. And it claims that FedEx and Allied supervisory-level employees tried to raise funds for Perez’ defense after his arrest and testified in court on his behalf.

“We are investigating the allegations in this claim that were made against one of our current vendors and will take any appropriate action once our investigation is completed,” said a statement on Tuesday from FedEx, which is not named as a defendant in the suit.

“FedEx Ground does not tolerate illegal activity and is committed to maintaining a workplace free from harassment and discrimination of any kind, both within our operating company and across our network of vendors and suppliers,” the statement said. “Vendors are expected to comply with all terms of their service agreements, including those related to services performed while on FedEx Ground property. Vendors are also solely responsible for all policies related to their employees.”

Allied Facility Care did not respond to a request for comment.

“FedEx and Allied have known about and tolerated the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women at Nashville Area FedEx facilities since at least 2017,” Charles Yezbak, the Nashville attorney representing the women, said in a statement.

The companies “allowed a sexual predator to manage a female workforce even after his arrest on FedEx property for sexual assault. Both companies allowed him to continue supervising female workers despite repeated complaints to FedEx and Allied employees
that he sexually assaulted his female subordinates. Instead of immediately purging this predator from their ranks and doing right by  the victims, FedEx and Allied employees chose to appear in court to support the predator while denigrating his victims. FedEx and Allied enabled the sexual predator while he punished women with the courage to resist or complain about his illegal behavior. Both companies had years to investigate but did nothing to prevent him from raping Jane Doe at the FedEx facility.

“FedEx will have to answer in court why it allowed a known sexual predator to abuse women on FedEx property. These same women toiled for sub-living wages cleaning FedEx facilities in support of its $70 billion operations.”

The women, who are identified only as ‘Jane Doe’ and ‘Jane Roe’ in the lawsuit, claim they were recruited for cleaning staff positions through a women-only Facebook page, where Perez posed as a woman to recruit new workers.

Jane Doe was hired in October 2019 to work at the FedEx Mount Juliet facility. During her interview with the supervisor, the lawsuit said, she was asked why she was working if she was married and whether she loved her husband. She was warned against gossip and told that the supervisor’s wife had cheated on him, the lawsuit said.

FedEx and Allied supervisory-level employees tried to raise funds for Samuel Perez’ defense after his arrest for sexual assault in 2017.

At one point after she was hired, the supervisor told Jane Doe to get into his car, where he explained the “rules of the company,” the lawsuit said. The rules were that the woman had to have sex with the supervisor or she would lose her job and never get permanent immigration status, the filing said. Then, according to the lawsuit, the supervisor groped her breasts and grabbed her legs, a precursor to regular on-the-job assaults. On at least four occasions, the supervisor took the woman to local hotels and forced her to perform sexual acts against her will and during working hours.

In June, 2020, the supervisor got the key to a shower room at FedEx’s Nashville facility from a FedEx employee and raped Doe in the shower, the lawsuit said.

The woman reported the behavior to a FedEx manager, the lawsuit said. She was later fired.

A second woman, ‘Jane Roe,’ was hired in October 2019 to work in the FedEx Mount Juliet facility. The lawsuit claims Roe was similarly groped by the supervisor in his car then later offered money in exchange for sex and massages. When she refused, the supervisor assigned her increasingly more difficult workloads. The supervisor in April 2020 walked in on Roe on the company shower, and assaulted her by groping her private areas, the lawsuit said.

The supervisor “targets foreign-born Hispanic women … because he believes they are more vulnerable and more easily exploitable than workers born in the United States and workers who are not Hispanic and that they will tolerate his egregious and outrageous sexual assault, harassment and rape without reporting it to their employers or to the authorities,” the suit said.

The lawsuit seeks class action status, claiming there are dozens of women who were targeted for abuse since May, 2017, all based on their national origin. The women are from Mexico, Honduras and other Central American countries, and South America. The suit also claims Allied Facility Care failed to pay minimum or overtime wages.

Allied Facility Care has not yet filed their response to the lawsuit.