The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently issued a decision which illustrates some of the weaknesses in both Federal and New Jersey Employment law, particularly Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Our attorneys represent both employers and employees in employment law, and this issue is of utmost concern to us.
The decision was in the case of Axakowsky v. NFL Productions, LLC, d/b/a NFL Films. In that case, Nadia Axakowsky sued NFL Productions, LLC, for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. The judge dismissed the case on summary judgment, ruling that Axakowsky was an independent contractor and therefore was not protected by either law.
The judge undertook a detailed analysis under federal case law interpreting Title VII. Culminating with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Darden in 1992, the federal courts have developed a test to determine whether a worker classified as a contractor is in reality an employee entitled to protection under Title VII. The judge went into detail examining all the factors in the relationship, and determined that Axakowsky was in reality a contractor, not an employee, and therefore not entitled to protection under Title VII. Without going into detail, given that Axakowsky worked only one and a half hours per week as a voice-over artist and continued to audition for and accept other work, the analysis was in all likelihood correct.