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The term "employer" is defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such person. Title VII goes on to define an "employee" in almost unrestricted terms: The term "employee " means an individual employed by an employer.
Arlene Nagy, the firm’s legal secretary, and a women's organization, filed employment discrimination suits against defendant law firm, Rinella & Rinella, alleging that the firm had violated § 704(a) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-3(a), when the firm fired the secretary because of participation in the women's organization, which was geared to the promotion of women's employment rights. Defendant filed for dismissal urging that the firm did not qualify as an employer engaged in an industry affecting interstate commerce.
Did the law firm qualify as an employer engaged in industry affecting interstate commerce?
The court denied the firm's motions to dismiss, holding that the firm was an employer within the meaning of § 701(b) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e(b), because the attorneys associated with the firm were employees; therefore, the firm unquestionably employed 15 or more people. The court noted that the firm exerted control over the attorneys' compensation, the firm maintained a health insurance program for the clerical employees and the attorneys, and to all outward appearances the attorneys were employees. According to the court, a predominantly local law firm affected commerce within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 151 et seq.