New Legal Trap for Employers in Hiring Independent Contractors
Insight Michael Moradzadeh · October 21, 2009
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a September 10, 2009 ruling, held that an employer can be held liable for discriminatory hiring decisions made by its independent contractors. The case involved an independent contractor acting on behalf of the employer, telling the plaintiff that “they were looking for someone younger”.
The Second Circuit ruled that, even if the hiring decision is made by the authorized independent contractor, the employer was still responsible for the discriminatory hiring decision by the independent contractors. In a worse scenario, even if the independent contractor does not have the actual authority but the applicant thought that it did (“apparent authority” in legal terms), the employer is still liable.
Considering the harsh economy and fewer job opportunities these days, employers should be more cautious since the job applicant is more inclined to sue if he/she cannot get the job. Employers should avoid asking job applicant questions such as race, religion, national origin, gender and age, etc during the interview process; when entering into the independent contractor contract, it is a good idea to add an indemnification clause asking the independent contractor to indemnify the employer for any liability arising from the hiring process conducted by the independent contractor.