Recently a female basketball referee from New Jersey brought a lawsuit against the local school district and the state scholastic association alleging that she was being illegally discrimination against because of her sex. According to her sex discrimination lawsuit, she was unlawfully excluded from officiating boys’ high school varsity basketball games.
The lawsuit raised a number of interesting questions such as who was her employer? Was the referee excluded because of her gender or because she lacked sufficient qualifications?
As a general rule, federal employment discrimination law – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – prohibits discrimination “because of” an employee’s sex. This means that your employer may not take an adverse action against you because of your sex. In other words, your sex cannot play a role in any aspect of your employment, including hiring, transfers, promotions, pay, disciplinary action, suspensions, and discharges. Title VII applies to all private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations and the federal government if they employ at least 15 employees. If you have questions about gender discrimination or gender bias in your workplace, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Atlanta gender discrimination attorney right away.
Here one of the main questions in the gender discrimination case was who should the referee sue, i.e. who is the referee’s employer? This is not always an easy question to answer. The referee had to identify who her employer was and who was covered by Title VII. The Court of Appeals determined that three potential parties could be considered her “employer” for the purpose of a gender discrimination lawsuit: Hamilton Township School District, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and the local decision of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials.
To determine whether these entities could be considered her “employer,” the court looked at three main factors: the level of control each exerted over the referee, which entity paid her salary, had authority to hire and fire, and which entity had control over her daily employment activities.
The court found that each of the entities could be considered an employer. Each entity controlled a different aspect of her job: The school district had some input as to which officials are assigned to each game, as well as the time, date, and location of the games, and also paid the officials for their work during the games. Further, NJSIAA controlled the postseason tournaments, directly assigned officials to postseason games, and paid referees for their work in those games. The Association of Basketball Officials was also found to have control over which games the referee was assigned to.
Having determined that each one of these parties could be sued the court was able to move to the next phase of her lawsuit, determining whether the referee was discriminated against.
Discrimination cases can be complicated – you may feel like you’ve suffered from illegal bias in your job but don’t know the next steps to take. If you have questions, please contact a skilled Georgia discrimination lawyer at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP to determine your next steps.