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Contractor Found Not To Be Employer Of Subcontractor

Published by on March 1, 2011

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has issued an opinion on an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The decision is interesting because it involves the interaction of government contractors and subcontractors when working on a government contract.  More after the […]

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has issued an opinion on an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The decision is interesting because it involves the interaction of government contractors and subcontractors when working on a government contract.  More after the break.

Plaintiff, an employee for GH Engineering Inc., was assigned to work on a government subcontract held by defendant Science Applications International Corporation (“SAIC”) with the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”).  Plaintiff suffered from a sleep disorder that caused excessive daytime sleepiness which resulted in her momentarily falling asleep during the workday.  Plaintiff occasionally fell asleep at CIA meetings.

Pursuant to the subcontract agreement, GH Engineering was an independent contractor of SAIC.  GH Engineering paid plaintiff, gave her raises, withheld taxes, and provided her with paid vacation that accrued pursuant to the GH Engineering’s vacation schedule.  Plaintiff went to a SAIC orientation, completed monthly status reports with SAIC, and received input from SAIC on her travel, training, and time cards.  Plaintiff’s work was directed primarily by two CIA employees and she gave regular status reports of her work to the CIA.       

Plaintiff was removed by SAIC from the subcontract with the CIA for falling asleep during three meetings and using a government computer to send a personal email.  Plaintiff alleged that her termination by SAIC from the subcontract was due to her sleep disorder and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991(“Title I”).  Plaintiff argued that she was a de facto employee of SAIC because of the degree of control SAIC exercised over her work.  The district court granted summary judgment to SAIC, holding that SAIC did not exercise sufficient control over plaintiff to be plaintiff’s employer for purposes of the ADA and Title I.  

The district court held that plaintiff was unable to present any evidence that she was under the direct control of SAIC in regard to the performance of her professional work.  In concluding that plaintiff was an independent contractor of SAIC, the district court relied on the facts that plaintiff was a senior engineer, a skilled occupation, who worked at a CIA site with tools provided by the CIA and her work was directed by CIA employees.  Additionally, GH Engineering paid plaintiff, gave her raises, and withheld taxes.  The district court concluded that SAIC’s lack of control over the manner in which plaintiff performed her work and the lack of a financial relationship between SAIC and plaintiff demonstrated that plaintiff was not an employee of SAIC and she could not recover under the ADA and Title I. 

The district court further held that plaintiff failed to establish the essential elements of her tortuous interference with contract claim against SAIC because no evidence demonstrated an employment relationship or reasonable expectancy of an employment relationship with the CIA.   

To read the full memorandum of opinion by the district court on SAIC’s Motion for Summary Judgment, click here.

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