On Monday, we blogged about the first of two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar. Today, we’ll discuss the second decision, Vance v. Ball State University, which addressed who is a “supervisor” for vicarious liability purposes under Title VII. The decision provides clarity in a previously muddled area of law, and has important implications for employer liability for workplace harassment under Title VII.
As you probably know, Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and similarly prohibits harassment resulting in a hostile work environment based on these characteristics. The plaintiff in Vance was a catering assistant who filed a lawsuit claiming that she had been subjected to a racially hostile work environment at the hands of a catering specialist in her department. Although the parties disagreed about whether the specialist was a supervisor, they did agree that she lacked authority to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline the plaintiff. The district (trial) court found that without this authority, the specialist was not a supervisor for whose actions the employer could be vicariously liable under Title VII.Continue Reading Part 2 of 2: Supreme Court Rules That “Supervisors” Under Title VII Must Have Power to Take Tangible Employment Actions