Tally up payroll to find out if Title VII covers you

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in Small Business Tax Deduction Strategies

Q. We have about 15 employees, many of whom work part time. A former employee filed a charge of discrimination against the company under Title VII. We don't think our company is covered by Title VII because we don't have 15 workers scheduled to work in most weeks. Do you think the case could be dismissed with that argument? —R.B., Texas

A. No. In a unanimous decision about three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected your theory when it adopted the “payroll method” of counting employees to determine whether an employer is covered by Title VII. Under Title VII, an “employer” is defined as a “person ... who has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.” The payroll method counts all employees on the payroll for each day of a given week regardless of whether they are physically present each day.

The court emphasized that what is ultimately critical is the existence of an employment relationship. As long as an employment relationship exists with at least 15 workers over the required 20 weeks, your company is covered by Title VII.

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