Will Supreme Court strengthen or weaken harassment protections?

We’re in a university setting here, so let me give you a university hypo. There’s a professor, and the professor has a secretary. And the professor subjects that secretary to living hell, complete hostile work environment on the basis of sex, all right? But the professor has absolutely no authority to fire the secretary. What would the Seventh Circuit say about that situation? [Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan]

Would the Professor be considered the Secretary‘s supervisor in an harassment case — making the employer liable for his actions? I’ll give you the short answer offered up by the Obama Administration’s Deputy Solictor General Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan — NO. Today’s Supreme Court hearing on Vance v. Ball State featured intense questioning from the justices.  Vance’s attorney, Daniel Ortiz, argued “as Justice Kagan’s question revealed, it produces truly perverse results. Someone who can tell you what to do in your job day-to-day, manage you during the whole job period, what kind of tasks you have to do, was not necessarily considered a supervisor, while the person upstairs in human resources that you may never see or even know would be considered your supervisor.” Continue reading