On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument concerning a seemingly easy question – Who’s is a supervisor? However, the Court’s decision in Vance v. Ball State University is likely to have a significant impact on future employment harassment and discrimination cases. Reports from the courtroom indicate the justices appeared “uncertain” about the best approach for resolving this critical decision.
In Vance, Maetta Vance alleged that her working environment was “living hell” due to the actions of a fellow worker who she claimed was her supervisor, despite the fact that the “supervisor” didn’t have the power to hire or fire her. Lower federal courts have defined a supervisor narrowly, and now the Supreme Court is set to determined whether a “supervisor” is only someone with the power to “hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline” employees as defined by the government; or more broadly, someone with the power to manage the day-to-day activities of colleagues.
A representative from the Justice Department asserted that “a person qualifies as a supervisor when he or she controls a subordinate’s work activities and subjects that person to harassment … the ability to carry out the harassment is implicated in that the victim will lack the same ability to resist the harassment or to report it.”
The decision may have broad impact on many employment discrimination cases. Where 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.
If you have been subjected to any form of employment discrimination, consulting with an Atlanta employment discrimination attorney is important to answer your employment 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.
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 (EEOC) have a much simpler definition, finding that is someone directs other employees’ daily work activities then they are a supervisor.
Employment discrimination law may raise many complex legal questions. If you feel you may have been harassed at work it’s important to speak to a skilled Georgia employment discrimination attorney who 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 employment discrimination attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, for a confidential case evaluation.