U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Holds Employer Liable for Age Discrimination Based on its Contractor’s Conduct

On September 10, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont, held that an employer may be held liable for age discrimination based upon the acts of others, including its independent contractors. According to the court, an employer can be held liable for the acts of independent contractors if the independent contractor is acting on behalf of the employer.

In Halpert v. Manhattan Apartments, Inc., Halpert applied for a position with Manhattan Apartments, Inc. to show apartments to prospective buyers. Manhattan Apartments retained Brooks, an independent contractor, to interview Halpert for the position. According to Halpert, Brooks told him that he was “too old” for the position.
According to the court, Manhattan Apartments’ potential liability depended upon whether Brooks was its hiring agent, or apparent hiring agent, when Halpert was interviewed for the position. The court determined that there were issues of fact precluding dismissal of the case because it was not clear whether Brooks was acting on his or Manhattan Apartments’ behalf.
Consequently, the court reversed the decision of the District Court (Southern District of New York) and reinstated the claim.
Although the case involves age discrimination, its reasoning applies equally to all types of discrimination claims.

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