Role misclassification can cause massive legal confusion for ADA compliance

by on January 7, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

ADA lawsuits are questioning misidentified roles in a company

Here’s a reminder that in the eyes of the law, it doesn’t matter so much what employees are called as what they do.

This goes for laws like Title VII, the ADEA, FMLA, and ADA. This also is the case for exempt vs. non-exempt situations under the FLSA.

Who’s a manager?
In an ADA lawsuit, the litigation involved the threshold for triggering the Americans with Disabilities Act (15 employees). The company identified itself as having 14 employees and thus ADA compliance didn’t apply.

To come up with that number, the company argued that two managers – the owner’s mother and husband – were employers, not employees, and therefore the firm fell below the threshold for ADA compliance.

Power came from owner
Not so, the court said.

The mother and husband may have had the power to hire and fire, and the husband shared in the profits of the business, but whatever power they had derived from the owner. They had no independent power. So they couldn’t be considered employers.

Because they were employees under ADA law, the company’s headcount was 15, and the ADA lawsuit against it could proceed.

Cite: Smith v. Castaways Family Diner, No. 05-3467, 7th Cir., 7/18/06.

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