Tuesday, November 3, 2009

3rd Circuit - Independent Contractors May Bring Discrimination Claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981

On September 11, 2009, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held, for the first time in this jurisdiction, that an independent contractor may properly bring an action for discrimination against the entity with which he or she contracted, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1981.

42 U.S.C. section 1981 provides that "All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other."

Independent contractors have historically been unable to seek and enjoy the protections of employment discrimination laws such as Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, because the scope and application of these laws is strictly limited to those individuals who are "employees." With this decision, however, independent contractors within the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit are able to enjoy a modicum of protection and bring a cause of action on the basis of discrimination that occurs within the context of the independent contractor relationship.