Employment-Eighth Circuit Rules That Title VII Discrimination Claims Fail Because Plaintiff Is An Independent Contractor

In Glascock v. Linn County Emergency Medicine, PC, No. 12-1311 (8th Cir. 2012), the plaintiff, Dr. Pooneh Hendi Glascock (“Glascock”), brought suit against Linn County Emergency Medicine, PC (“LCEM”). She claimed violations of Title VII and the Iowa Civil Rights Act, due to discrimination based on sex, pregnancy, and national origin. The district court granted summary judgment to LCEM, concluding that Glascock could not assert a claim under either statute because she was an independent contractor. Glascock appealed.

In this case, Glascock, a female physician of Iranian origin, had entered an “Independent Contractor Physician Service Agreement” (the “Agreement”) with LCEM in May 2007 to work as an emergency room physician at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Agreement was to last one year and renew for an additional year unless terminated by either party with 90 days notice. LCEM provided professional liability insurance for Glascock, but no benefits or vacation pay. The agreement guaranteed Glascock 15 shifts per month at an hourly rate of $130. Glascock submitted her monthly availability and scheduling preferences to LCEM, and LCEM assigned shifts. She also remained free to engage in other professional activities. Glascock filed her own self-employment tax returns. The Agreement gave LCEM no control or direction over the method or manner by which Glascock performed her professional services and duties. As the attending physician at Mercy Medical Center, she selected a patient’s chart and reviewed it, determined the appropriate course of action, and then met with the patient. She received no instruction on how to examine, treat, or diagnose patients. At the end of Glascock’s first year under the Agreement, LCEM terminated her. This suit ensued.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) ruled that Glascock was an independent contractor of LCEM, based on an analysis of whether LCEM controlled Glascock’s work, the Supreme Court’s “Darden factors” used to distinguish employees from independent contractors and the economic realities of the situation. Therefore, Glascock was not eligible to bring suit under Title VII or the Iowa Civil Rights Act. As such, the Court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment for LCEM.