[COLUMN] Company acting as agent of employer can be equally liable for discrimination 

Unlawful actions committed by separate business entities that perform  employment-related tasks on behalf of an employer can be held equally liable for  discrimination. This rule was made clear in a recent decision from the California Supreme  Court.

Plaintiff Kristina Raines applied for a position as a Food Service Aide with a  company called Front Porch Communities and Services. She was offered the job on the  condition that she pass a pre-employment medical screening to be conducted by U.S.  Healthworks Medical Group (“USHW”), one of the country’s largest provider of  occupational health services.

As part of the medical screening, USHW required Raines to provide a complete  health history, including as to matters that seemed unrelated to her ability to perform the  job she had applied for. For example, USHW’s comprehensive screening asked whether  Raines has or ever had a venereal disease, painful or irregular vaginal discharge or pain,  problems with or irregular menstrual periods, genital pain or masses, cancer, HIV,  permanent disabilities, painful or frequent urination, hair loss, hemorrhoids, diarrhea,  black stool, constipation, tumors, organ transplant, stroke, or a history of tobacco or  alcohol use. USHW’s screening also asked whether Raines was pregnant, and whether she  had any prior job-related injuries or illnesses.

When Raines objected to the intrusiveness of USHW’s health-related inquires, the  examination was terminated and her job offer as a Food Service Aide was revoked.

Raines filed a class action against USHW under the California Fair Employment  and Housing Act (“FEHA”). This law makes it unlawful for any employer “to make  any medical or psychological inquiry” of a job applicant. USHW moved to dismiss  the lawsuit, arguing that it was not an employer within the meaning of FEHA. Raines  argued that USHW could be held liable under FEHA, which defines “employer” to  include “any person acting as an agent of an employer.”

The California Supreme Court agreed with the employee. Noting that FEHA  defines “person” to include any partnerships, associations, corporations, and limited  liability companies, the Court ruled that a business-entity agent of a FEHA plaintiff’s  employer is, for purposes of FEHA, an employer of the plaintiff. The California Supreme  Court explained: “If a business entity contracts with an employer to provide services that

will affect that employer’s employees, and if, in providing those services, the business entity agent violates FEHA’s antidiscrimination policies, causing injury to the employer’s  employees, it is consistent with sound public policy to treat the business entity as an  employer of the injured employees for purposes of applying the FEHA.”

This interpretation imposes FEHA liability not only on the employer but also  extends it to the entity that is most directly responsible for the FEHA violation.”

The California Supreme Court’s ruling in Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group broadens protection of employees against discrimination. It emphasizes the state’s strict  enforcement of its anti-discrimination laws.

Companies that violate the law but claim to be a mere third-party service provider  rather than a direct employer—whether it be unaffiliated or affiliated with the direct  employer—can be held liable for harm or injuries employees.

* * *

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

 * * *

The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential  and at no cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than  25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and  consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal,  consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for  Outstanding Filipino Overseas.] 

(Advertising Supplement)


The Filipino-American Community Newspaper. Your News. Your Community. Your Journal. Since 1991.

Copyright © 1991-2024 Asian Journal Media Group.
All Rights Reserved.