General Contractor, Not Employer

By Emily Keimig

JP Cullen was the general contractor on a public renovation project. A subcontractor, EMI, hired its own subcontractors, including UCI. JP Cullen gave UCI work orders, and UCI passed those orders on to its employee, Walter Love. Love had a fight with another subcontractor’s employee. Both participants are African-American. JP Cullen’s superintendent banned both of them from the site. For Love, that meant he no longer had work to perform, because UCI had no other contracts to which he could be assigned.

Love sued JP Cullen for race discrimination. The allegations included a noose and routine use of the N-word on the site, but on appeal, the only issue was whether JP Cullen, in addition to UCI, was Love’s “employer.” The 7th Circuit applied a five-factor test that it considers a more “structured” form of the economic realities test. Here, the reality was that the general contractor was not one of Love’s employers. It didn’t control Love’s work, didn’t provide training other than safety meetings, didn’t provide him equipment, didn’t pay him or his benefits, and was not going to be his employer following completion of the renovation project. Where Love could meet none of the five factors in the test, the court easily concluded the general contractor was not Love’ employer. Love v. JP Cullen & Sons, Inc., No. 13-3291 (7th Cir. March 9, 2015)