By Eric B. Meyer
Nah, brotha. This isn’t Jeopardy. “What is a supervisor” is a question that the United States Supreme Court has decided to answer.
Meyer, what are you talking about? Who cares? Well, you should…
The Supreme Court has twice held (here and here) that, under Title VII, an employer is vicariously liable for workplace harassment by a supervisor. What the Supreme Court has yet to clarify, however, is just who is a “supervisor” for purposes of Title VII.
Guidance should come next year
In Vance v. Ball State University, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago joined the First Circuit and the Eighth Circuits in opining that a Title VII “supervisor” must do more than direct and oversee the victim’s daily work. Rather, the supervisor must also have the power to take formal employment actions against victim.
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Prior to Vance, the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits had held, the “supervisor” liability rule applies to harassment by those whom the employer vests with authority to direct and oversee their victim’s daily work. Meanwhile, in my backyard, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has fashioned it’s own two-part test to determine who is a supervisor.
So, here cometh the Supreme Court to answer the question. We’ll get some guidance next year.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.