Independent contractor vs. employee: Were employment discrimination claims valid?

Doctor portraitFrom HR.BLR.com — The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a pathologist was an independent contractor and not entitled the protections of the ADA, ADEA or FMLA:  “In reviewing the common-law “control” factors, the 8th Circuit noted that Alexander determined how he would provide his services, set his own work schedule, and was free to hire and compensate substitute pathologists during his absences. In addition, he and the hospital acknowledged his independent contractor status in writing from the inception of the relationship. As a result, the 8th Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss his ADA and ADEA claims.

The appeals court then moved on to Alexander’s FMLA claim. The court ruled that his standing (legal right) to file a lawsuit as an employee had to be examined under both the common-law “control” test and the economic realities test. The economic realities test focuses on whether the economic realities of the relationship show that a worker is solely dependent on a company/”employer” for economic support.

Using the common-law and economic realities tests, the court found that Alexander could not establish a material question of fact to support his FMLA claim. Based largely on the court’s assessment of the economics of the relationship between Alexander and the hospital, it was clear that Alexander had the freedom to find and compensate substitute pathologists in his absence. Also, he was required to pay all of his professional licensing and malpractice insurance expenses.

Further, Alexander’s economic independence was best reflected by his ability to provide similar services to other businesses while working for the hospital. Finally, his obligation to withhold income taxes made it clear that he was not totally dependent on or controlled by the hospital. Thus, the 8th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Alexander’s FMLA claim. Alexander v. Avera St. Luke’s Hospital, 2014 WL 4817821 (8th Cir., 2014)….”

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