Case Summary: Joint Employment Doctrine
Whicker v. Compass Group USA, Inc./Crothall Services Group, Employer; Self-Insured (Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., Administrator); and Novant Health, Inc., Alleged Joint Employer, Self-Insured, Defendants.
NC Court of Appeals Opinion filed April 5, 2016.
This is a case addressing the Joint Employment doctrine. The Court of Appeals analyzed each element of the doctrine that must be met by a plaintiff in order to prove an alleged Defendant should be considered a Joint Defendant under the NC Workers’ Compensation Act.
Plaintiff was employed as an environmental services housekeeper by Defendant-Employer. Defendant-Employer contracted with the Alleged Joint Employer to provide cleaning services to thirteen healthcare facilities. Plaintiff was assigned to work at a specific hospital. On June 2, 2013, Plaintiff clocked out and left the hospital for her lunch break. Plaintiff fell while walking in the parking lot of the hospital, and injured her left shoulder. Plaintiff was treated at the emergency room of the hospital and diagnosed with a left shoulder fracture.
The claim was denied by Defendant-Employer via a Form 61. Plaintiff eventually returned to work and was terminated for violating company policy on November 4, 2013. Plaintiff filed a Form 18 Notice of Accident on or about November 11, 2013, listing both Defendant-Employer and the Alleged Joint Employer as employers. On or about May 12, 2014, the Alleged Joint Employer filed a Form 61 denial of the claim.
The case came for hearing on July 23, 2014, and the Deputy Commissioner concluded Plaintiff did not sustain an injury as the result of an accident during the course and scope of her employment with Defendant-Employer, and further concluded that Plaintiff was not a joint employee of Defendant-Employer and the Alleged Joint Employer. Plaintiff’s claim against the Alleged Joint Employer was therefore denied. Plaintiff appealed the decision and the Full Commission found no employment relationship existed between Plaintiff and the Alleged Joint Employer. The Full Commission affirmed the holding of the Deputy Commissioner in an Opinion and Award entered on June 17, 2015. Plaintiff appealed and argued the Commission erred by concluding no employment relationship existed between Plaintiff and the Alleged Joint Employer.
Plaintiff’s argument that she was employed by both Defendant-Employer and the Alleged Joint Employer at the time was based on two doctrines: the joint employment doctrine and the lent employee doctrine.
The Court affirmed the Full Commission’s findings and concluded Plaintiff was not an employee of the Alleged Joint Employer at the time of her injury.
The Court in its analysis noted both the joint employment doctrine and the lent employee doctrine required an employment contract to exist between Plaintiff and the Alleged Joint Employer. There was no express employment contract between Plaintiff and the Alleged Joint Employer. The Court also found there was no implied contract, as Plaintiff was hired, paid, trained and supervised by Defendant-Employer. Further, the contract between Defendant-Employer and the Alleged Joint Employer expressly stated Plaintiff was an employee of Defendant-Employer. The Court also noted Plaintiff’s own testimony at hearing in which she confirmed there was never any contract between Plaintiff and the Alleged Joint Employer.
The Court further noted that both the joint employee doctrine and the lent employee doctrine required Plaintiff to show the work she was performing at the time of her injury was of the same nature as the work performed by the Alleged Joint Employer. The Court found Plaintiff could provide no authority showing the work she was performing was essentially the same as the work performed by the Alleged Joint Employer (i.e. the operation of hospitals).
Both doctrines also required Plaintiff to prove the Alleged Joint Employer had control over the manner and execution of Plaintiff’s work. The Court found Defendant-Employer was responsible for hiring, training, managing and directing the personnel provided by Defendant-Employer, including Plaintiff, and that any supervision by the Alleged Joint Employer’s personnel was minimal at best.
In order to prevail on a joint employment or lent employee doctrine, a plaintiff has to show the following: (1) Either an express or implied contract with the alleged joint employer; (2) That the work plaintiff was performing was of the same nature as the work performed by the alleged joint employer; and, (3) That the alleged joint employer had control over the manner and execution of plaintiff’s work. Absent any of these three factors, a plaintiff cannot meet their burden of proving an alleged defendant should be considered a joint employer. Be sure to investigate each of these three factors if you are handling a claim involving an allegation of joint employment.