Recently a female basketball referee from New Jersey brought a lawsuit
against the local school district and the state scholastic association
alleging that she was being illegally discrimination against because of
her sex. According to her sex discrimination lawsuit, she was unlawfully
excluded from officiating boys’ high school varsity basketball games.
The lawsuit raised a number of interesting questions such as who was her
employer? Was the referee excluded because of her gender or because she
lacked sufficient qualifications?
As a general rule, federal employment discrimination law – Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – prohibits discrimination “because
of” an employee’s sex. This means that your employer may not
take an adverse action against you because of your sex. In other words,
your sex cannot play a role in any aspect of your employment, including
hiring, transfers, promotions, pay, disciplinary action, suspensions,
and discharges. Title VII applies to all private employers, state and
local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations and the federal
government if they employ at least 15 employees. If you have questions
about gender discrimination or gender bias in your workplace, it’s
a good idea to consult with an experienced
Atlanta gender discrimination attorney right away.
Here one of the main questions in the gender discrimination case was who
should the referee sue, i.e. who is the referee’s employer? This
is not always an easy question to answer. The referee had to identify
who her employer was and who was covered by Title VII. The Court of Appeals
determined that three potential parties could be considered her “employer”
for the purpose of a gender discrimination lawsuit: Hamilton Township
School District, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association
(NJSIAA) and the local decision of the International Association of Approved
To determine whether these entities could be considered her “employer,”
the court looked at three main factors: the level of control each exerted
over the referee, which entity paid her salary, had authority to hire
and fire, and which entity had control over her daily employment activities.
The court found that each of the entities could be considered an employer.
Each entity controlled a different aspect of her job: The school district
had some input as to which officials are assigned to each game, as well
as the time, date, and location of the games, and also paid the officials
for their work during the games. Further, NJSIAA controlled the postseason
tournaments, directly assigned officials to postseason games, and paid
referees for their work in those games. The Association of Basketball
Officials was also found to have control over which games the referee
was assigned to.
Having determined that each one of these parties could be sued the court
was able to move to the next phase of her lawsuit, determining whether
the referee was discriminated against.
Discrimination cases can be complicated – you may feel like you’ve
suffered from illegal bias in your job but don’t know the next steps
to take. If you have questions, please contact a skilled
Georgia discrimination lawyer at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC to determine your next steps.