Tampa Bay Bucs Not Deputy’s Employer

Written on 05/13/2022
Will Aitchison

In September 2015 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the New Orleans Saints in the New Orleans Superdome. The Buc­caneers contracted with the New Orleans Police Department to provide motorcycle escorts by off-duty law enforcement offi­cers for the team’s buses traveling in the New Orleans area. Deputies from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) eventually served on the motorcycle escort.

Following the September 20, 2015 game, the motorcycle officers commenced escorting the Buccaneers’ buses from the Superdome to the airport. Deputy Mi­chael Tisdale, operating a JPSO-owned motorcycle, was the final motorcycle in the motorcade, following the last bus. After the Buccaneers’ buses had cleared the intersection of Girod Street and Loyola Avenue, Deputy Tisdale’s motorcycle was engaged in turning right from Girod Street onto Loyola Avenue when it collided with JPSO Deputy Terrance Bolden, who was on foot to provide pedestrian traffic control at the intersection.

Bolden and his wife sued the Bucca­neers, alleging that the Buccaneers were vicariously liable for the negligence of Tis­dale and that Tisdale was acting within the course and scope of his employment with the Buccaneers. The Louisiana Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit.

The key question for the Court was whether the Buccaneers became Tisdale’s employer when it contracted for the motorcycle escort. As the Court saw it, “The single most important fac­tor to consider in deciding whether the employer-employee relationship exists is the right of the employer to control the work of the employee. The four primary evidentiary factors considered in decid­ing whether such an employer-employee relationship exists relate to whether the alleged employer has the right or duty, relative to the employee, of: (1) selection and engagement; (2) payment of wages; (3) power of dismissal; and (4) power of control.

“In contrast to the employer-em­ployee relationship, the status of an independent contractor connotes a free­dom of action and choice with respect to the undertaking in question. The distinction between an employee and an independent contractor status is a factual determination to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

“The evidence presented by the Buccaneers demonstrated that the rela­tionship between the motorcycle officers and the Buccaneers was more akin to that of independent contractors, rather than employees, since the Buccaneers did not select or hire the individual officers, the Buccaneers did not always make direct payment to the officers, and the Buccaneers did not control the methods employed by the officers in conducting the motorcade escort. While the Buccaneers necessarily set the dates, times, and locations for the job (details that were dictated by the date, time, and location of the NFL game the Buccaneers were traveling to and from), the overall motorcade escort job called for the work to be done according to the motorcycle officers’ own methods, without being subject to the control and direction in the performance of the service by the Buccaneers.”

Bolden v. Tisdale, 2022 WL 262976 (La. 2022).

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