100 F.3d 78 (8th Cir. 1996), 96-1548, Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C.

Docket Nº96-1548.
Citation100 F.3d 78
Party NameKaren DEVINE, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. STONE, LEYTON & GERSHMAN, P.C., Defendant/Appellee.
Case DateNovember 13, 1996
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 78

100 F.3d 78 (8th Cir. 1996)

Karen DEVINE, Plaintiff/Appellant,

v.

STONE, LEYTON & GERSHMAN, P.C., Defendant/Appellee.

No. 96-1548.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

November 13, 1996

Submitted Sept. 11, 1996.

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc Denied Dec.

30, 1996.[*]

Page 79

D. Eric Sowers, St. Louis, MO (Dayna F. Deck, St. Louis, MO, on the brief), for appellant.

Alan E. Popkin, St. Louis, MO (Paul J. Puricelli, St. Louis, MO, on the brief), for appellee.

Before BEAM, HEANEY, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Karen Devine appeals from a judgment dismissing her claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et. seq., and the Missouri Human Rights Act, Mo.Rev.Stat. §§ 213.010 et. seq. Devine alleged that she was fired from her job at Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C. (SL & G) because she had complained of sexual harassment, and alternatively, because of her sex. The district court 1 granted SL & G's motion for summary judgment on the Title VII claim because it found that SL & G was not an "employer" under the statute, and dismissed the supplemental state law claim for lack of jurisdiction. We affirm.

Karen Devine alleges that she was sexually harassed and discriminated against during the three years she worked as a paralegal at SL & G. She states that she first brought the problem to the attention of attorney Steven Leyton in June 1992. She claims the harassment continued, and that in October 1993 she made a formal complaint to Jeffrey Gershman and told him she was prepared to file a claim with the EEOC. Devine was fired in May 1994.

In June 1992, at the time Devine said that she first spoke to Leyton about harassment, SL & G was organized as a partnership, but it changed its form in January 1993 and became a professional corporation. 2 The attorneys who had been partners became shareholders and directors of the professional corporation. After the change in form, other attorneys became shareholders and directors. The total number of employees at SL & G during 1993 and 1994 is disputed by the parties. Devine asserts that there were eighteen employees in 1994 when she was fired, eight of whom were attorneys. SL & G states that it had no more than twelve employees.

Page 80

In her complaint Devine alleged that SL & G was an "employer" under Title VII and Missouri law. SL & G moved for summary judgment, claiming it did not meet the federal statutory definition of employer because it did not have fifteen employees since the attorney shareholders and directors did not count as such. There is no dispute that jurisdiction under Title VII depends on whether or not some or all of the attorney shareholder-directors were employees.

The plain language of the statute does not provide much guidance in determining whether any or all of SL & G's shareholder-directors are employees. "Employee" is defined as "an individual employed by an employer...." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(f). "Employer" is defined as a "person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees...." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).

Devine contends that the attorneys were employees in 1994 because they worked for a professional corporation. She points out that SL & G chose to switch from a partnership to a corporation. According to her, SL & G obtained tax and employee benefits by switching to the corporate form and it should have to accept other consequences of that type of entity. She argues Title VII is remedial in nature and should be liberally construed to further its objectives and that judicial economy favors adoption of a per se rule making every individual in a professional corporation an "employee."

SL & G argues that examination of the economic realities of its employment arrangement shows that the shareholder-directors were not employees. Even though it was a professional corporation, it functioned like a partnership and the shareholder-directors acted like partners. Partners are not employees it says, so the attorney shareholders should be considered similarly.

Courts have taken two approaches in resolving the question of whether shareholders and directors of professional corporations are employees under federal antidiscrimination law. Under one approach the type of organization is decisive, and individuals working for a professional corporation are considered employees. EEOC v. Johnson & Higgins, Inc., 91 F.3d 1529 (2d Cir.1996); Hyland v. New Haven Radiology Assocs., P.C., 794 F.2d 793 (2d Cir.1986); Johnson v. Cooper, Deans & Cargill, P.A., 884 F.Supp. 43 (D.N.H.1994). The other approach examines the actual circumstances to determine whether an individual functions like a partner. Individuals acting like partners will not be classified as employees because partners own and manage a firm. Fountain v. Metcalf, Zima & Co., P.A., 925 F.2d 1398 (11th Cir.1991); EEOC v. Dowd & Dowd, Ltd., 736 F.2d 1177 (7th Cir.1984).

The words "employer" and "employee" should be given their established meaning. See Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U.S. 318, 323, 112 S.Ct. 1344, 1348, 117 L.Ed.2d 581 (1992) (holding that where the statute does not helpfully define the term "employee," courts should apply its established meaning); Graves v. Women's Professional Rodeo Ass'n, Inc., 907 F.2d 71, 73 (8th Cir.1990). Cases interpreting the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et. seq., can also be useful in Title VII cases since the relevant definitions are nearly identical and the underlying purpose is similar. 3 See McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352, ----, 115 S.Ct. 879, 884, 130 L.Ed.2d 852 (1995); Lenhardt v. Basic Inst. of Technology, Inc., 55 F.3d 377, 380 (8th Cir.1995); Hyland, 794 F.2d at 796.

This court has indicated that the form of the organization does not control whether an individual is an employee under the ADEA. EEOC v. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., 775 F.2d 928 (8th Cir.1985). The firm in Peat Marwick was organized as a partnership, but the EEOC argued that at least some of the 1300 partners were employees under the statute. The EEOC was permitted to investigate by subpoena whether the partners were in fact employees. Examination of the circumstances would not have been necessary

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if the form of the organization were controlling. As Peat Marwick suggests, employment relationships vary greatly and often defy easy categorization. A rigid per se rule that stresses organizational form over substance might be easier to apply, but it also might undermine the statutory purposes.

The better reasoned cases hold that the substance of...

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41 practice notes
  • 230 B.R. 848 (8th Cir.BAP (Minn.) 1999), 98-6085, In re Wintz Companies
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Eighth Circuit
    • 17 Marzo 1999
    ...U.S. 1040, 118 S.Ct. 1336, 140 L.Ed.2d 498 (1998); see Anderson, at 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2512; Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78, 81-82 (8th Cir.1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1211, 117 S.Ct. 1694, 137 L.Ed.2d 821 "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, ......
  • 252 B.R. 743 (8th Cir.BAP (Ark.) 2000), 00, In re Marlar
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Eighth Circuit
    • 12 Septiembre 2000
    ...U.S. 1040, 118 S.Ct. 1336, 140 L.Ed.2d 498 (1998); see Anderson, at 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2512; Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78, 81-82 (8th Cir.1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1211, 117 S.Ct. 1694, 137 L.Ed.2d 821 "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, ......
  • 71 F.Supp.2d 1085 (D.Kan. 1999), 98-2401, Saxon v. Thompson Orthodontics
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of Kansas
    • 19 Agosto 1999
    ...for purposes of the federal anti-discrimination statutes is the Eighth Circuit's opinion in Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78 (8th Cir.1996). In Devine, the plaintiff was employed as a paralegal for the defendant, a law firm. See id. at 79. She Page 1089 suit against......
  • 283 F.Supp.2d 411 (D.Mass. 2003), Civ. A. 01-CV-12031, Kakides v. King Davis Agency, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Massachusetts
    • 18 Septiembre 2003
    ...v. New Haven Radiology Associates, P. C., 794 F.2d 793 (1986), involved the ADEA. See also Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P. C., 100 F.3d 78 (C.A. 8 1996) (Title VII case). Id. at 1677 n. 3. [4] The Massachusetts common-law test of the master-servant relationship is based on essent......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
40 cases
  • 230 B.R. 848 (8th Cir.BAP (Minn.) 1999), 98-6085, In re Wintz Companies
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Eighth Circuit
    • 17 Marzo 1999
    ...U.S. 1040, 118 S.Ct. 1336, 140 L.Ed.2d 498 (1998); see Anderson, at 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2512; Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78, 81-82 (8th Cir.1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1211, 117 S.Ct. 1694, 137 L.Ed.2d 821 "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, ......
  • 252 B.R. 743 (8th Cir.BAP (Ark.) 2000), 00, In re Marlar
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Eighth Circuit
    • 12 Septiembre 2000
    ...U.S. 1040, 118 S.Ct. 1336, 140 L.Ed.2d 498 (1998); see Anderson, at 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2512; Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78, 81-82 (8th Cir.1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1211, 117 S.Ct. 1694, 137 L.Ed.2d 821 "Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, ......
  • 71 F.Supp.2d 1085 (D.Kan. 1999), 98-2401, Saxon v. Thompson Orthodontics
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of Kansas
    • 19 Agosto 1999
    ...for purposes of the federal anti-discrimination statutes is the Eighth Circuit's opinion in Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78 (8th Cir.1996). In Devine, the plaintiff was employed as a paralegal for the defendant, a law firm. See id. at 79. She Page 1089 suit against......
  • 283 F.Supp.2d 411 (D.Mass. 2003), Civ. A. 01-CV-12031, Kakides v. King Davis Agency, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Massachusetts
    • 18 Septiembre 2003
    ...v. New Haven Radiology Associates, P. C., 794 F.2d 793 (1986), involved the ADEA. See also Devine v. Stone, Leyton & Gershman, P. C., 100 F.3d 78 (C.A. 8 1996) (Title VII case). Id. at 1677 n. 3. [4] The Massachusetts common-law test of the master-servant relationship is based on essent......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Supreme Court Docket Report October Term, 2002 - Number 1
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • 16 Octubre 2002
    ...are "employees." See EEOC v. Dowd & Dowd, Ltd., 736 F.2d 1177 (7th Cir. 1984); Devine v. Stone, Layton & Gershman, P.C., 100 F.3d 78 (8th Cir. 1996); Fountain v. Metcalf, Zima & Co., P.A., 925 F.2d 1398 (11th Cir. 1991). The Ninth Circuit elected to align itself with t......