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Total Articles: 3

Supreme Court Hands Down Victory for Employers

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Vance v. Ball State University that makes it easier for employers to defend against harassment suits. When an employee is harassed by a co-worker on the basis of a protected status, such as race or sex, the company is liable only if it knew or had reason to know about the harassment and failed to address it. If the harasser is the employee’s “supervisor,” a stricter standard applies. Generally, the employer is “vicariously liable” for the actions of the supervisor, even if nobody else knew about the harassment. The Vance decision resolves the question of who is a supervisor, defining it as someone who has the ability to take “tangible employment actions,” rather than someone who merely oversees the employee’s work.

Let's Get a Grip, Employees' Rights Did Not End Yesterday

Reporting is no easy task. But I have heard several reports concerning the two Supreme Court decisions yesterday that convey misleading information, or at least don't put it in proper context. An example is By 5-4, a More Hostile Workplace by New York Times editorial board member Teresa Tritch.

Supervisors Without Authority to Affect Employment Status of Other Workers Are not “Managers” for Purpose of Title VII.

The basis of an employer’s liability for a claim of hostile work environment under Title VII depends upon whether the harasser is the complainant’s supervisor or merely a co-worker. When a hostile work environment is created by a co-worker, the employer is liable only if the employer failed to provide an avenue for reporting the harassment, or if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment but failed to take prompt and appropriate remedial action. Under Title VII, an employer “knew or should have known” about workplace harassment if “management level employees had actual or constructive knowledge about the existence of a sexually hostile environment.” Therefore, once a management level employee has enough information to raise the probability of sexual harassment in the mind of a reasonable employer, the employer is deemed to be on constructive notice of that harassment.