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Lerohl v. Friends of Minnesota Sinfonia

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
322 F.3d 486 (8th Cir. 2003)


Tricia Lerohl and Shelley Hanson (plaintiffs) were regular members of the Sinfonia, a group created by former members of the Minneapolis Chamber Symphony Orchestra to provide free classical concerts for inner-city youth. Under the auspices of the nonprofit Friends of the Minnesota Sinfonia (the nonprofit) (defendant), Jay Fishman acted as Sinfonia’s executive and artistic director. Fishman scheduled concert series, managed a list of eligible musicians, and sent out mailings to those musicians, who then decided whether or not to participate in a particular concert. Eligible musicians could decline any offer and could opt out of any commitment to play, provided they secured an eligible substitute. Sinfonia players, and Fishman as conductor, were paid a per-concert flat fee that was set by the local musicians’ union, of which all Sinfonia players were members. Fishman was also paid as an employee of the nonprofit for his work as Sinfonia’s director. Lerohl and Hanson were regular Sinfonia performers from 1990–1999. In 1999, Fishman stopped offering concert opportunities to them. Lerohl sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging she was terminated in retaliation for a sexual harassment claim she had made against Fishman. Hanson sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., alleging she was terminated after being unable to perform for several months while recovering from injuries sustained at a Sinfonia rehearsal. The district court entered summary judgment on both complaints, based on its conclusion that the statutes did not apply, because the plaintiffs were independent contractors rather than Sinfonia employees. The plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Loken, J.)

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