950 F.2d 377 (7th Cir. 1991), 90-2770, Knight v. United Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co.

Docket Nº90-2770.
Citation950 F.2d 377
Party NamePatricia KNIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNITED FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY and United Farm Bureau Family Life Insurance Company, Defendants-Appellees.
Case DateDecember 03, 1991
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 377

950 F.2d 377 (7th Cir. 1991)

Patricia KNIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

UNITED FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY and United Farm

Bureau Family Life Insurance Company, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 90-2770.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

December 3, 1991

Argued Oct. 1, 1991.

Jere L. Humphrey (argued), Kizer & Neu, Plymouth, Ind., for plaintiff-appellant.

Donald S. Smith (argued), Laura S. Reed, Ryan L. Leitch, Riley, Bennett & Egloff, Indianapolis, Ind., for defendants-appellees.

Before CUDAHY, RIPPLE, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

Patricia Knight, an insurance agent working for the defendant United Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company filed suit claiming that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her sex in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Following a two-day bench trial, the district court found that Farm Bureau was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Ms. Knight was not an employee of the defendant, but an independent contractor. Therefore, her claim fell outside the protection of Title VII. This timely appeal followed.

I. FACTS

In May, 1982, Ms. Knight began working at Farm Bureau's Plymouth, Indiana, office as an "employee agent." An employee agent is paid a salary from which social security and income taxes were withheld by Farm Bureau. After a certain period of time in which the agent has satisfactorily performed, employee agents become "contract agents." The agents are not given the option to remain employee agents. If they wish to continue selling Farm Bureau insurance as contract agents they must sign a written agreement which states that the agents are now independent contractors. The contract agents earn their income through commissions on their sales and various performance bonuses. These agents are required to pay their own taxes and receive a 1099 tax form from Farm Bureau for this purpose.

Page 378

Farm Bureau provides certain services to its contract agents. Farm Bureau provides, without charge, cameras, film, office furniture, file cabinets, rate books, forms, secretarial services, postage, computer terminals, and some Farm Bureau stationery. In addition, Farm Bureau paid for all agents' education. The company pays tuition, provides a lunch stipend, and pays for room rental when agents attend various seminars or programs. The contract agents, however, provide their own pens, transportation, personalized stationery and business cards. The contract agents pay their own licensing fees and provide their own health, disability and life insurance. The agents do not receive paid holidays, sick days or vacations.

Farm Bureau retains some control over its contract agents. First, while working at Farm Bureau, the agents are not allowed to sell insurance for any other company. The contract agreement also provides that Plymouth agents can sell the insurance in only three Indiana counties. This area was further divided by the agency manager who assigned certain townships to different agents. Agents could only sell outside of their assigned geographic boundaries for "good reasons," such as referrals or a sale to a relative. Disputes between agents are settled by the agency manager. In addition, Farm Bureau requires its contract agents to be in the Plymouth office two half days each week and every fifth Saturday. Agents are expected to attend hour-long meetings on Monday mornings and to retrieve mail and messages from the office each day.

The agency affords very little supervision over the work of the contract agents. The agents find their own customers and decide which Farm Bureau products to offer. The agents also work a great deal at home, so they can work in the evening hours when clients and potential customers are home from work.

All of the above factors were considered by the district court. On appeal, Ms. Knight points to other evidence in the record which she claims is relevant to the determination of whether she was an independent contractor or an employee...

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