In Jimenez v. U.S. Continental Marketing, Inc., the California Court of Appeal addressed whether the plaintiff and appellant, Elvia Velasco Jimenez, was an “employee” of a contracting employer under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In answering this question, the court also provided useful guidance to California businesses on the standard for whether an employment relationship exists under the FEHA. This guidance is particularly relevant for staffing companies and their clients because there can be ambiguity as to which company employs these workers. This question was highly consequential to the parties because, unless Jimenez could establish that she was an employee of the contracting employer under the FEHA, she could not prevail on her claims against that company for harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment or retaliation, and wrongful termination.
Jimenez was a “direct employee” of a staffing agency named Ameritemps, Inc., which assigned her to U.S. Continental Marketing, Inc. (USCM), a manufacturer of shoe care products. At the time USCM terminated her engagement, Jimenez oversaw the production work of up to 30 workers. Ameritemps was responsible for tracking work time, providing benefits and paying Jimenez. With respect to her day-to-day experience at USCM, however, there was virtually no difference between Jimenez and direct employees of USCM. Jimenez used USCM’s equipment, she was expected to comply with USCM’s policies, she supervised and in turn was supervised by USCM’s direct employees, and USCM sent her to its clinic for any on-the-job injuries. Continue Reading