Labeling workers independent contractors doesn’t make it so, 5th Cir. warns

From HRDive, Laurel Kalser discusses a recent case in which caregivers were misclassified as independent contractors and the employer could not claim it was a small employer not subject to discrimination and retaliation claims. Laurel writes:

  • A San Antonio in-home companion service for seniors is an “employer” covered by Title VII — and can’t avoid paying more than $83,000 in lost wages and damages for retaliation — because its approximately 50 caregivers are “employees,” not independent contractors, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Sept. 13 in Mason v. Helping Our Seniors, LLC.
  • The company, owned by a husband and wife, employed a mother and daughter as caregivers and office employees, according to court documents. The daughter complained to the wife that the husband was creating a sexually hostile work environment by loudly watching pornography while she was alone with him in the office, court records said. She called the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about filing a sexual harassment charge, and the company fired her and her mother the next day, according to the record.
  • The women sued the company for violating Title VII. After a bench trial, a federal district court ruled in their favor, and the 5th Circuit upheld the ruling. The company argued it couldn’t be held liable for retaliation because it didn’t have at least 15 employees and therefore wasn’t subject to coverage under Title VII. The 5th Circuit disagreed. It explained that a company is covered if it employs 15 or more employees for the relevant time period. The company met this threshold because under a hybrid “economic realities/common law control” test, its caregivers are employees, the court held.

Read the full story at Labeling workers independent contractors doesn’t make it so, 5th Cir. warns

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