Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on, among other reasons, the employee’s race, religion, national origin, and sex. Title VII also protects employees from retaliation by their employer for reporting or opposing the employer’s discriminatory actions. Before bringing an employment discrimination case, however, the employee must be able to show that he or she is in fact an employee and not, for example, an independent contractor. Today’s Long Island employment discrimination blog discusses the Second Circuit Court of Appeals case, Knight v. State University of New York Stony Brook, which addressed the question of how to determine whether an individual is an employee.
The Discriminatory and Retaliatory Conduct
Anthony Knight is African American and was a member of an electrician’s union. The union had agreed to provide electricians to Stony Brook, when Stony Brook needed additional workers for large construction projects. In April 2011, the union sent Knight to help Stony Brook with a project. While working at Stony Brook, Knight found “racist” graffiti in the bathroom and reported it to his foreman. After the report, Stony Brook terminated Knight’s work. Knight sued Stony Brook alleging the graffiti was discriminatory and the termination was taken in retaliation for his complaint about the graffiti. The court dismissed the discrimination claim, but the retaliation claim went to trial.