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Workplace discrimination guidelines for high status workers

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 laid some important guidelines for workers. Title VII of the federal law protects workers against workplace discrimination. But high-ranking workers in Wisconsin, such as executive and law firm partners, may be wondering whether their position is considered employer or employee. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Clackamas case has laid out guidelines for courts to determine whether a worker is an employee or an employer, and therefore whether the individual is protected against certain forms of workplace discrimination. 

The overarching theme in determining whether one is considered an employee or an employer is how much control a worker has over the work environment. In the 2003 Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates vs. Wells case, the Supreme Court endorsed a six-factor test, based on the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission guidelines, to determine whether a person is an employee or an employer.

Among those factors are whether the worker can hire and fire, if the worker is supervised by the company and whether the individual reports to someone higher in the company. The remaining factors include the extent to which the worker can influence the company, whether employment contracts indicate if the person is an employee, and whether the individual shares in profits, losses and liability of the company. The Supreme Court has ruled that job title alone cannot determine whether an individual is an employer or an employee.

Individuals in Wisconsin who are wondering about their protections against workplace discrimination can use these six guidelines to help them determine their status in a company. If a person feels that they are a victim of workplace discrimination, an attorney may be helpful. An experienced employment lawyer will be able to offer guidance on the current interpretation of workplace discrimination laws and assist in navigating the civil claims process.  

Source: The National Law Review, "Are executives and law firm partners covered by Title VII's employment discrimination protections?", Eric Bachmann, June 29, 2017

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