Court Ruling: Employers Liable for Independent Contractor Misdeeds

Oct 6, 2009

New York’s 2nd District Court of Appeal has ruled that an employer is liable for the misdeeds of its hiring agents, even if it considers them independent contractors.

It said “an employer may be held liable for discrimination by third parties, including independent contractors, that the employer authorizes to make hiring decisions on its behalf.”

The case involved a candidate who was rejected for a job showing apartments to potential tenants. The candidate, Michael Halpert, alleged it was due to his age. So Halpert sued Manhattan Apartments, the rental company.

The company said it was not liable because an independent contractor was involved, and under previous decisions, it wasn’t responsible for the actions of a third-party recruiter.

“The case reinforces my advice that the independent contractor status of a recruiter does not insulate the employer from vicarious liability for the discriminatory acts of an agent acting with its ‘knowledge and consent.’ However, the damaging facts here surrounded the employer’s direct (not vicarious) liability for its own patently discriminatory conduct under the ADEA,” says attorney Jeff Allen, a long-time Fordyce contributor.

While the case does not represent a change in existing law, Allen points out that “it serves as a reminder that the ADEA — and virtually all federal, state, and local laws — hold recruiters jointly and severally liable for discrimination with their clients.”

This story is also covered on, in a post entitled Employers Are Liable For Other’s EEO Violations.

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