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4th Circuit: Joint employers can face discrimination suit

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court says an employer can’t evade anti-discrimination laws by hiring workers from a temporary employment agency.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reinstated a South Carolina woman’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Drive Automotive Industries of America and a temporary staffing agency, ResourceMFG. A judge had tossed out factory worker Brenda Butler’s lawsuit against Drive, ruling that she really only worked for the temp agency.

But the appeals court unanimously ruled that she worked for both organizations. The court said this is the first time it has held that the so-called joint employment doctrine is the law of the 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland. Other circuits already have recognized the doctrine.