Are Companies Liable When Supervisors Harass Employees? Ask the Supreme Court

Maetta Vance was working at Ball State University when she was harassed by another employee who Vance alleged had the authority to tell her what to do and how to clock her hours. After filing repeated complaints, Vance sued the university for violating Title VII. The university argued that it could not be held liable because Vance’s harasser did not have the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline her. Lower courts agreed. Vance appealed to the Supreme Court. [ Announcement of Friend of Court Brief filed by National Partnership For Women & Families ]

So, the question before the Supreme Court this Monday is whether or not the definition of supervisor in harassment cases should be limited to only those managers with the authority to hire and fire or discipline an employee.  According to Sarah Crawford, the director of Workplace Fairness, “the Court’s decision will have important ramifications for the ability of victims of supervisor harassment to hold their employers accountable…The case is a chance for the Court to affirm a standard that furthers the purposes of Title VII – to root out harassment and make clear that employers will be held accountable when supervisors violate the law. A contrary ruling will have grave consequences for victims of harassment and the rights guaranteed by our nation’s equal employment opportunity laws. ” Continue reading