Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has issued an opinion stating that the uncompensated directors of a nonprofit corporation were not employees for purposes of determining whether the corporation had enough employees for the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to apply. The court also concluded in Fichman v. Media Center (9th Cir., 1/14/08, No. 05-16653) that volunteers who produced media content for the nonprofit were also not employees for purposes of these laws.
Fred Fichman had served as the Executive Director of Sierra Nevada Community Access Television, Inc. d/b/a The Media Center (Media Center). Media Center is a nonprofit corporation that is tax-exempt under section 501(c) (the court did not specify the relevant paragraph). After he was terminated in late 2003, Mr. Fichman filed suit in federal District Court alleging violations of the ADEA and the ADA, as well as asserting a state law tort claim. The District Court granted summary judgment in the Media Center's favor based on its conclusion that during the relevant time period the Media Center employed less than the 20 employees required for the ADEA to apply and less than the 15 employees required for the ADA to apply. The District Court also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim.
On appeal, Mr. Fichman argued that Media Center's nine uncompensated directors and approximately 80 uncompensated producers who supplied broadcast content should be considered employees for purposes of meeting the ADEA and ADA number of employees thresholds. The Ninth Circuit applied a six-factor analysis to determine whether either or both sets of individuals should be considered employees for these purposes. In a unanimous opinion, it concluded that they should not be so considered and therefore affirmed the District Court's grant of summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit also concluded that the District Court did not abuse it discretion when it declined to exercise supplement jurisdiction over the state law claim.