The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Knitter v. Corvias Military Living, LLC on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.
Lisa Knitter worked as a handyman for Lewis General Contracting (LGC) from March to October 2010. During this time, LGC’s sole client was Corvias Military Living, formerly known as Picerne Military Housing (Picerne). Ms. Knitter performed handyman services solely on Picerne properties. Picerne properties were divided into neighborhoods, and each neighborhood had a neighborhood manager and a maintenance supervisor. Ms. Knitter worked on several Picerne neighborhoods, but had disputes with Picerne staff in three of the neighborhoods. Ms. Knitter called Mr. Lamb, the Assistant Director of Maintenance Operations for Picerne, to complain about sexual harassment and gender discrimination in one of the neighborhoods. After this phone call, Mr. Lamb contacted Mr. Lewis to request that Ms. Knitter no longer be assigned to do handyman work at Picerne. Because LGC had no work outside Picerne, Ms. Knitter was terminated.
Ms. Knitter sued Picerne under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq, alleging that she was paid lower wages than her male counterparts and she was fired in retaliation for her discrimination claims, and also that she was denied vendor status after her firing in retaliation for her prior complaints of discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to Picerne, finding that it was not Ms. Knitter’s employer, and dismissed her retaliation claims for the denial of vendor status because Ms. Knitter had never applied for employment with Picerne.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment and dismissal. It applied the joint employer test set forth in Bristol v. Board of County Commissioners, 312 F.3d 1213 (10th Cir. 2002), and found that at no time was Picerne Ms. Knitter’s employer. Because Picerne was not Ms. Knitter’s employer, her claims of gender discrimination and wrongful termination necessarily failed, since Title VII applies only to employers. The Tenth Circuit then examined Ms. Knitter’s claims that she was denied vendor status in retaliation for her discrimination claims. The Tenth Circuit determined that at no time did Ms. Knitter apply for employment with Picerne, so there could be no retaliation based on an employer-employee relationship. The district court’s grant of summary judgment was affirmed.