Gurumurthy Kalyanaram Reports on U.S. Supreme Court on who is a “Supervisor”?
GurumurthyKalyanaram Reports on U.S. Supreme Court on who is a
In the lawsuits based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the question
is: who is the supervisor? Gurumurthy Kalyanaram analyzes this important
In 1990s (in a pair of lawsuits/writs) the U.S. Supreme Court held that an
employer is automatically liable under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for
discrimination by an employer who is a “supervisor.” On the other hand, if a coworker discriminates, the company is liable only if the victim complains to her
employer and the employer is negligent in responding to the complaint.
In Vance v. Ball State University (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court answered
the question: Who is a Supervisor?
The Court has held that to be a “supervisor,” a person must have the power
to take a “tangible employment action” against the victim. That is, he must be able
to “effect a „significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing
to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision
causing a significant change in benefits.‟” The employer was entitled to win the
case because Vance did not shown that the person who discriminated against her
was a supervisor under the Court‟s definition.
The decision was rendered by a majority if 5-4, and Justice Alito wrote the
majority opinion. Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and
Kagan, dissented. In the dissent, they wrote that the majority decision “ignores the
conditions under which members of the work force labor, and disserves the
objective of Title VII to prevent discrimination from infecting the Nation‟s
workplaces.” But the majority opinion the new interpretation of a “supervisor,”
and law of the land for assessing the legal viability of complaints and lawsuits.