Fourth Circuit Says Law Firm Equity Partner Is Not an Employee for Title VII Purposes

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP
Contact

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on a range of protected classifications. However, Title VII only applies to employment relationships and cannot be used by contractors, partners, and other people in non-employment relationships with the company. On Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia) affirmed dismissal of a Title VII lawsuit against a law firm on the grounds that the senior equity partner who filed it was not an employee.

In Lemon v. Myers Bigel P.A., the plaintiff was a senior equity partner who sat on the firm’s board of directors and management committee. She alleged that she was forced to resign her partnership due to race and gender discrimination, as well as retaliation. The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff fell outside the definition of an employee under Title VII. The Fourth Circuit panel affirmed this decision, noting that the plaintiff was an owner of the firm, who shared in its profits, had a role in managing the business, and could not be removed without a majority vote of the partnership. This role differs from employment, where the employee typically reports to a supervisor and employment can be terminated without a majority shareholder vote.

This decision likely also applies to other partnerships and professional associations such as accounting firms, architecture firms, and medical practices. While the same reasoning might not apply to junior partners with little say in running the business, partnerships can take measures to make clear that senior partners are not considered, characterized, or treated as employees.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP
Contact
more
less

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP on:

Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide
- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.