March 8, 1998 the Washington Post published an Op-Ed in response to a Supreme Court decision, Oncale v. Sundowner. Sadly, the essence of this Op-Ed still resonates today: “Predicating harassment suits on discrimination is also something of a mismatch; what bothers people about abusive workplace conduct, after all, is not the fact that it may be discriminatory but that it is abusive in the first place… Congress should decouple
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. ”
Ever since the landmark workplace bullying case was upheld by Indiana’s Supreme Court, the Joint Commissions has required that Hospitals address civility issues as a requirement in their accreditation process. Many states require lawyers adhere to civility codes for conduct in the courtroom. Now, according to NewHampshireSentinel.com, Rep. Susan Emerson, R-Rindge, is proposing a bill to stop bullying among legislators in her state capitol.