Who Is A Supervisor? Supreme Court Seeks Guidance In Race Harassment Case

A recent racial harassment case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, Vance v. Ball State University, raises a significant question, “Who is a supervisor?” Determining whether a someone at work is a supervisor or not has serious consequences in terms of liability. In many instances, if a co-worker is also considered “a supervisor,” then an employer may be held “vicariously liable” for the actions of the supervisor and be required to pay compensation as a result of the harassing behavior.

Vance v. Ball involves the Title VII racial discrimination claim of Maetta Vance. Vance, a black catering assistant at Ball State University, alleged that her white co-workers and supervisors racially harassed her. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees “because of” their race or color. That means that employers may not take your race or color, or your perceived race or color, into consideration in making employment decisions.

If you have been subjected to race or color discrimination, consulting with an Atlanta employment discrimination attorney is important to answer your race discrimination questions and determine your next steps. Where discrimination is found to have occurred, you may be entitled to compensation including front and back pay, emotional distress and other compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

In Ball, Vance asserted that because one of her co-workers exhibited coontol over her, directed her work and did not “clock in” like the other hourly employees, that that co-worker should be considered a supervisor. Although the appellate court disagreed, the Supreme Court has now taken this question under consideration. It appears that courts across the country are split on just what makes a co-worker a supervisor. In some courts, the title of supervisor only applies to individuals who have the authority over the formal employment status of an employee – i.e. the power to hire, fire, demote, promote or transfer other workers. Other courts, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have a much simpler definition, finding that if someone directs other employees’ daily work activities, then they are a supervisor.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to file a brief providing the government’s view on this important question.

Employment discrimination law may raise complex legal questions, a skilled Georgia employment discrimination attorney understands the law and will fight to ensure you are not subject to harassment or discrimination at work. For more information contact the dedicated Georgia race discrimination attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, for a confidential case evaluation.