What determines coverage under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers any company with "15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year." Sounds simple.
By Raymond Dreyfack March 1, 2000

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers any company with “15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”

Sounds simple. But how to determine when the employment relationship is in effect and when it is not?

When, after several ignored gripes to Maintenance Foreman Klaus Hauptman about a scaffolding he considered unsafe, Painter Class II Harold Stark threatened to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Hauptman’s response was brusque. “Do that and it’ll cost you your job.”

Stark did it and Hauptman was as good as his word.

Stark didn’t plan to take it lying down. “You can’t fire me,” he protested. “I’m covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

“That’s what you think.”

After an exhaustive search of payroll records, time charts, work sheets, and other time-keeping records, Hauptman informed Stark that even though the company employed the requisite number of workers Stark was excluded because the employee count only qualified a person on days when he is actually paid. Days off and unpaid leave do not apply. On this basis, Stark was disqualified.

The painter disagreed and threatened to sue.

Question: What do you think? Is Stark covered under the Act?

Wainscott’s decision: “Kill the termination notice,” Plant Engineer Bill Wainscott instructed Hauptman after reviewing the details of the dispute. “Recent cases cite that the standard most currently in use by the U.S. Supreme Court requires use of the ‘payroll method’ of counting employees. Experience proves that attempting to base the count on time actually compensated is not only cum- bersome, expensive, and complex, but unreasonably time consuming.”

Waiscott added, “On top of that, if this case were carried any further it would be embarrassing to the company. Your continued disregard of an employee’s safety complaint could put not only the company in hot water with OSHA, but you as well.”