On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument concerning a seemingly
easy question – Who’s is a supervisor? However, the Court’s
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.
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
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
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 The Buckley Law Firm, LLC, for a confidential consultation.