Jun 26, 2013

The United States Supreme Court Narrowly Defines "Supervisor" in Workplace Harassment Claims

Alert | Employment Services Alert

In this holding, the Supreme Court specifically rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) definition of a “supervisor” as someone who has the ability to exercise significant discretion over another employee’s daily work. The Court held that this definition was not specific enough, and it would be very difficult if not impossible to determine prior to trial whether an individual was a supervisor under this definition.

This week, the United States Supreme Court clarified the definition of who is a “supervisor” when determining whether an employer is liable for an employee’s alleged wrongful harassment of another employee. In a 5-4 decision in Vance v. Ball State University, Justice Samuel Alito delivered the Court’s decision in holding that a “supervisor” is one who can “take tangible employment actions” regarding other employees. Examples of these types of actions include “hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits....”

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