Plaintiff Sufficiently Alleges “Joint Employer” Status in Hostile Work Environment/Sexual Harassment Case

In Defran v. Transp Workers Union of Greater New York AFL-CIO, 2016 WL 740308 (N.Y.Sup.), 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 30329(U), the court discussed and applied the “joint employer” doctrine in the context of an employment discrimination/sexual harassment/retaliation case.

Plaintiff, a bus driver/union member who later became chairperson of her union (TWU/Local 100), alleged that she was sexually assaulted at work and then subjected to discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment for reporting the behavior of her assailant. She alleged that International TWU of America (of which Local 100 is a branch) was a “joint employer that exercised complete control over TWU employees so as to be liable under” the New York State and City Human Rights Laws for alleged discrimination.

Judge James summarized the law as follows:

Although an entity may not be a formal or direct employer, a plaintiff may still assert employer liability under the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL under the “joint employer” doctrine. A joint employer relationship may be found to exist where there is sufficient evidence that the respondent had immediate control over the other company’s employees. The court must consider factors which include hiring, firing, discipline, pay, insurance, records, and supervision. [The Second Circuit holds that] [c]ourts consider whether the alleged joint employer (1) did the hiring and firing; (2) directly administered any disciplinary procedures; (3) maintained records of hours, handled the payroll, or provided insurance; (4) directly supervised the employees; or (5) participated in the collective bargaining process. Under the joint employer doctrine, plaintiff “must plead enough facts so that the claim is facially plausible and gives fair notice to defendants on her theory of employer liability.

The court held that, at this point (viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to plaintiff), plaintiff “established that International TWU may be a joint employer for purposes of liability under the NYSHRL and NYCHRL,” reasoning:

According to plaintiff, staff members from International TWU regularly came to her office to direct her on how to perform her job. She further maintains that International TWU handled appeals of the TWU employees. Plaintiff also claims that when she was terminated, she was told she had violated the International TWU constitution. In addition, the evidence submitted from International TWU demonstrates that International TWU was involved in paying plaintiff’s salary, as the W-2 and earnings summary forms list plaintiff’s employer as TWU of America rather than as Local 100.

It therefore denied defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint under CPLR 3211(a)(7).

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