Law School Case Brief
Eisenberg v. Advance Relocation & Storage, Inc. - 237 F.3d 111 (2d Cir. 2000)
Though no single Reid factor is dispositive, the "greatest emphasis" should be placed on the first factor, that is, on the extent to which the hiring party controls the "manner and means" by which the worker completes his or her assigned tasks. The first factor is entitled to this added weight because, under the common law of agency, an employer-employee relationship exists if the purported employer controls or has the right to control both the result to be accomplished and the "manner and means" by which the purported employee brings about that result.
In July 1998, plaintiff Julianne Eisenberg ran into an old acquaintance, Peter White, who was accompanied by another man, Mike Ewing. Both men worked at defendant Advance Relocation & Storage, Inc. (Advance), a warehouse in Connecticut. White was involved in Advance's hiring process, and Ewing was the warehouse manager. The men discussed with Eisenberg the possibility of her working on a "permanent full-time" basis at Advance. They did not inquire into any special skills that Eisenberg may have had, and they did not ask about her prior work experiences. Instead, Eisenberg believed, the men were interested in her working at the warehouse because White knew that she was strong, having played football with her, and that she had been doing carpentry work for many years. Soon after her conversation with White and Ewing, Eisenberg reported for work at Advance. There, she and her co-workers were responsible for loading and unloading furniture from trucks at the warehouse and at residences. They were paid on an hourly basis and were required to punch in and out. Eisenberg and her co-workers were occasionally sent home early if there was little to do, and they were sometimes asked to work on the weekend. At work in the warehouse, Eisenberg was given orders by White on where to do and what to do. At job sites, an Advance representative would direct the crew as to what objects Eisenberg was to move.
Eisenberg filed a complaint in federal district alleging sexual harassment against Joan Isaacson, the Advance office manager. Before filing, Isaacson advised Eisenberg that if she sought legal counsel or filed anything in court, she would not receive a job at Advance. Thus, Eisenberg's complaint alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment at Advance, that her termination from the firm was discriminatory, and that defendants retaliated against her for complaining about the violation of her right to be free of sexual harassment, all of which were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL). Following discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted their motion, holding that Eisenberg was not an Advance "employee," and thus could not invoke the protections of Title VII or the NYHRL.
Was Eisenberg considered an "employee" within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York Human Rights Law?
The appellate court reversed and remanded the judgment. It held that in determining whether a worker was an employee within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New York Human Rights Law, courts ordinarily should place particular weight on the extent to which the hiring party controls the manner and means by which the worker completes her assigned tasks, rather than on how she was treated for tax purposes or whether she received benefits. It was an error on the district court's end not to do so. The court explained that Eisenberg was an unskilled laborer paid on an hourly basis. She did not use her own truck or tools, and she was not hired for any particular project. Finally, Eisenberg did not appear to have had any substantial discretion over how to complete her assigned tasks.
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