Worker for a Subsidiary not Parent Company’s Employee

August 26, 2011 ( - A worker for a subsidiary is not the parent company’s employee, despite an employee’s belief to the contrary, a federal appeals court ruled in dismissing the parent as a defendant in an employment discrimination case, according to a Business Insurance article.   

Business Insurance said that in the ruling in Caroline DeLia vs. Verizon Communications Inc. et al. by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the worker sued New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and some of its subsidiaries, alleging she was sexually harassed by a co-worker and her employer responded inadequately. “We do not doubt that DeLia may have thought Verizon was her employer, but her subjective belief alone is insufficient to create a triable issue of material fact,” the panel ruled in upholding a lower court’s ruling dismissing Verizon as a defendant in the case. 

DeLia worked as an artist for Idearc Media Corp., which was known for almost all of her 16-year employment as Verizon Directories Service-East Inc. Idearc was a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon Directories Corp., which was a subsidiary of GTE Corp., and ultimately the parent company. 

Delia, who alleged she was harassed for several months in 2005 by a supervisor, reported his behavior to Verizon’s equal employment opportunity personnel, who conducted interviews and made recommendations for corrective action. The supervisor eventually was fired after an incident involving a male employee. 

DeLia filed suit alleging a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliation under state and federal employment laws. She provided evidence to support her contention that she was a Verizon employee, including stating she worked in Verizon’s Middleton, Massachusetts, office and her office key card bore Verizon’s logo. 

However, “DeLia does not dispute that it was Idearc’s office, her own subjective belief notwithstanding,” a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled unanimously, according to Business Insurance. “Nor is the logo on the key card—indicating that the card itself is property of Verizon—probative of an employment relationship with Verizon.” 

The court also said that although it is undisputed that Verizon administered her benefits, “she was paid by Idearc, which maintained its own accounts, records and payroll, and which issued DeLia an annual W-2 form.”