The “joint employer” doctrine has been used with increasing frequency by the plaintiffs’ bar to broaden the scope of target defendants in discrimination cases beyond those who would be traditionally regarded as the employer. This is true even in the construction industry, which has seen a rise in cases where general contractors (“GC”) or construction managers (“CM”) are being targeted when discrimination is alleged on a construction project, even when the GC or CM is far removed from the underlying events and had no control over the employees in question.
Examples of this phenomenon are where a claim of harassment or discrimination originates in the lower tier ranks of subcontractors, or even where there is a claim involving an independent contractor on a project and a discrimination lawsuit ensues.
Until now, the Courts in the federal circuit which includes New York City (the Second Circuit) have been left to decipher a patchwork of case law to ascertain the scope and extent of joint employer liability in discrimination cases. In a move that is certainly welcomed by contractors, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Felder v. United States Tennis Association, et al., 19-1094, recently issued a comprehensive decision which provides a helpful summary of what must be pled and proven to broaden liability under the joint employer theory in discrimination cases. Felder provides a roadmap for risk mitigation by contractors looking to limit such claims in the future or to meet them head on when they do arise.
Reprinted courtesy of Kevin J. O’Connor, Peckar & Abramson (ConsensusDocs), Aaron C. Schlesinger, Peckar & Abramson (ConsensusDocs) and Lauren R. Davis, Peckar & Abramson (ConsensusDocs)
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