A New York federal appeals court ruled that Black security guard Sean Felder could refile his retaliation case against the United States Tennis Association (USTA), reviving the “David and Goliath lawsuit.”

Felder’s suit had alleged that the USTA “discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964…and discriminatorily interfered with his employment contract with AJ Squared Security…by rejecting his temporary assignment as a security guard for the 2016 U.S. Open.”

Felder claims “his supervisor at AJ Security told him the USTA denied his credentials as retaliation over Felder filing an earlier lawsuit alleging that white guards got better assignments than Black employees during the 2009 tournament.”

This decision might mark a temporary victor for Felder; however, Reuters reports that “it’s a setback for workers’ rights, generally. The court’s ruling carves out a trapdoor in the main federal law banning discrimination in employment and allows companies wiggle room to engage in exactly the sort of discriminatory practices the statute is intended to prevent.”

Under the court’s most recent ruling, “Felder, who initially sued without the help of an attorney,” is now able to amend his complaint, “to show that the USTA would have been his ‘joint employer’ if he had been issued credentials to work at the 2016 U.S. Open in New York City.”

The judges’ analysis of Felder’s claim of retaliation means that Felder “now has to allege facts in his next complaint showing that USTA would have exercised significant control over his working terms and conditions, along with AJ Security.” This kind of interpretation is a slippery slope and what might call counterintuitive to the intent of the statute as Title VII does prohibit “employers from retaliating against workers for ‘protected conduct’ – which includes complaints about discrimination — it also makes it unlawful for employers ‘to fail or refuse to hire’ an individual under certain circumstances.”

The crux of this suit now subverts the question of who was ultimately responsible for refusing to hire Felder and now focuses “on whether USTA would have had control over Felder’s working terms if it had decided to hire him.” Ultimately, this ruling will have repercussions in the legal world for all employers who use contractors“as it leaves room for businesses to avoid liability for discriminatory hiring practices by outsourcing work, even if those businesses control final decisions.”

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