Who is Considered a "Joint Employer" for Purposes of Discrimination Law?

When bringing a lawsuit for race discrimination, or any other type of discrimination claim for that matter, it is important to clearly identify who the relevant “employer” is. In many cases this will be obvious. But what about a situation in which an employment agency or multiple contractors are involved in the hiring process? How do you determine who may be liable for a particular act of alleged discrimination?

Judge Dismisses Security Guard's Lawsuit Against USTA

Consider this recent decision by a federal judge in Manhattan, Felder v. United States Tennis Association Incorporated. The plaintiff in this case is a 50-year-old African-American man who worked for a security company. This company was subcontracted by a second company, which in turn was contracted by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to provide security for the U.S. Open and other events. According to the plaintiff, his supervisor initially told him he that would work the 2016 U.S. Open, but the USTA denied him credentials.

The plaintiff, representing himself without an attorney, accused the USTA of race and age discrimination. He also alleged the USTA declined to let him work the Open in “retaliation” for a previous discrimination claim that he settled against the USTA's security contractor. The USTA moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing among other things that no employer-employee relationship ever existed between itself and the plaintiff.

The judge agreed with the USTA. He explained that while a person may “assert employer liability against an entity that is not formally his or her employer,” there are certain legal standards that must still be met under what is known as the “joint employer” doctrine. This doctrine basically says that when “two nominally separate entities are actually part of a single integrated enterprise,” they can both be held liable for any acts of discrimination. In some cases, the joint employer doctrine can extend to “temporary employment or staffing agencies” that exercise joint control over hiring decisions.

The judge concluded that this did not cover the plaintiff's situation, at least as alleged in his lawsuit. The judge explained that “[a]pplication of the joint employer doctrine in the staffing agency context is plausible when the staffing agency has actually placed its employee with the third party, with whom it shares immediate control over the employee.” In this case, the plaintiff presented no evidence that the USTA “shared immediate control over him” with either the security contractor or the subcontractor that immediately employed him. Therefore his lawsuit against the USTA could not proceed.

Speak with a New York City Race and Nationality Discrimination Lawyer Today

Representing yourself in an employment discrimination case is never a good idea, especially when facing a large, well-funded employer. If you have any reason to suspect you were denied an employment opportunity on the basis of your race or age, you should speak with a qualified New York employment attorney to learn more about your legal options. Contact the offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, at (646) 760-6493 to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our legal team today.