U.S. District Court – No Recourse Under Title VII or c. 151B For Independent Contractor

Posted on: Monday, January 12th, 2015

The U.S. District Court recently affirmed the well-recognized principle that Title VII and c. 151B “do not reach” independent contractors. In Santangelo v. New York Life Insurance Co., 2014 WL 3896323 (D. Mass. 2014), the defendant-insurance company successfully moved for summary judgment on age discrimination claims brought by an independent contractor.

In determining that the plaintiff was not an employee for purposes of Title VII and c. 151B, the court drew upon traditional agency law principles:

In general, whether one is found to be an employee or independent contractor under those statutes depends upon whether the hiring party has a “right to control the manner and means by which the product is accomplished.”

Id. quoting Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U.S. 318, 323–24 (1992).

Applying that analysis, the court reasoned that the plaintiff was an independent contractor because he controlled the “manner and means” of his own work, determined his own sales strategy, and worked the hours that he felt appropriate on a given day. The plaintiff also rented his own office space and he was free to sell the products of other insurance companies.

Accordingly, the court ruled that no reasonable jury could find that the plaintiff was an “employee” under Title VII or c. 151B and allowed the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

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