Thursday, September 4, 2014

District Court Confirms that Partner is Not an “Employee” Afforded Protection Under Title VII

District Court Confirms that Partner is Not an
“Employee” Afforded Protection Under Title VII

      In a recent decision, the Western District of Kentucky denied the Plaintiff additional opportunity for discovery and held that a partner in a partnership is not an “employee” afforded protections by Title VII.  Bowers v. Ophthalmology Group, LLP, Civ. Act. No. 5:12-CV-00034-JHM, 2014 WL 4259430 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 27, 2014).
      This dispute involves allegations by Bowers, formerly a partner in Ophthalmology Group, alleging various claims including violation of Title VII, she asserting that she was mistreated consequent to her sex.  In prior decisions the courts had considered and ultimately granted a Motion to Disqualify the law firm originally hired by the Ophthalmology Group on the basis of an asserted conflict.  Having new counsel, Ophthalmology Group brought this Motion to Dismiss.
      Notwithstanding Bowers’ objections that there had been no further discovery and that the prior discovery was “tainted” by the now removed firm’s conflict, the District Court found that the Title VII claim must fail:
At the end of the day, the undisputed evidence shows that Dr. Bowers was, in fact, a partner of Ophthalmology Group, not an “employee” afforded protection under Title VII.  Dr. Bowers enjoyed partnership status through the partnership agreement, engaged in decision-making with her partners, and was compensated according to a partnership formula.  This evidence is undisputed and is not tainted.  No amount of additional discovery will change these facts. 
      Having dismissed the only federal claim, the District Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, leaving those matters to be resolved in state court.

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