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Matthew M. Hoffman


Co-chair, Municipal & School Group

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Matthew M. Hoffman, Esq., (412) 594-3910,

Larkin v. Upper Darby School District, 2024 WL 377812 (E.D. Pa. January 31, 2024) (An employee of a staffing agency placed at a school district was considered an “employee” of the school district for purposes of a Title VII discrimination claim)


In 2022, Khalil Larkin worked for a staffing agency, U.S. Medical, which contracted with Upper Darby School District to provide temporary staffing to the school district. U.S. Medical placed Larkin at Beverly Hills Middle School in the Upper Darby School District. As his placement, Upper Darby determined Larkin’s pay and controlled his daily activities—including the days and times worked and the type of work performed. They also furnished the necessary work equipment.

Larkin, a Black man, was supervised by John Purcell, a White man who oversaw staffing at Upper Darby. Larkin alleges that Purcell “routinely spoke to [Larkin] and other Black employees in a demeaning manner” and made racist comments. After multiple instances of Purcell’s allegedly harassing and discriminatory behavior, Larkin filed a discrimination complaint with assistant principal Jerome Neal in November 2022. A human resources representative told Larkin they would internally investigate his complaint. On January 13, 2023, Larkin met with school administrators to discuss his complaint. After the meeting, Upper Darby informed Larkin that he would no longer work there.

Larkin filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that he suffered racial discrimination and retaliation for reporting racial harassment. Following receipt of a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC, Larkin initiated a civil action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Upper Darby filed a motion to dismiss Larkin’s complaint on several grounds, including that Larkin was not an employee of Upper Darby. The court rejected Upper Darby’s argument and held that Larkin was permitted to proceed with his Title VII claims against Upper Darby.


Title VII requires a claimant to allege an employment relationship with the defendant. Upper Darby claimed that Larkin had failed to sufficiently plead that it was his employer under Title VII. To determine whether an employment relationship exists, courts in the Third Circuit apply the test first set forth in the United States Supreme Court decision in Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U.S. 318 (1992) to Title VII cases. The Darden Court outlined a “non-exhaustive list of relevant factors” to be used in determining whether a hired party is an employee under the general common law of agency. In making this determination for purposes of Title VII, courts should focus on which entity pays salaries, hires and fires employees, and has control over daily employment activities.

Larkin’s amended complaint alleged that Upper Darby determined his pay, controlled his daily employment activities, including the days and times he worked and the type of work Larkin performed, and decided when he was terminated. Accordingly, the court determined that Larkin

sufficiently alleged an employment relationship with Upper Darby to allow him to proceed with his Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims.

Practical Advice

The Larkin decision is instructive in demonstrating that the use of temporary staffing agencies to furnish personnel does not necessarily insulate a school district from employment-related claims from persons assigned by that agency. As in Larkin, school districts commonly exercise control over such personnel’s daily work activities and agreements with staffing agencies typically allow school districts to require the removal of unacceptable personnel, circumstances which may be sufficient to support an allegation of an employment relationship for purposes of Title VII claims. Consequently, when staff furnished by a staffing agency presents claims of discriminatory or harassing conduct in the school district’s workplace, a school district should implement its discrimination policies to investigate and address such allegations.

For more information, contact Matt Hoffman at (412) 594-3910 or at

March 13, 2024

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