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Total Articles: 9

Federal Appeals Court Expands Joint Employer Liability Theory For Agricultural Employers

A federal appeals court just announced a sweeping change for agricultural employers that will make it easier for workers to bring discrimination claims against them under a joint employment theory. In last week’s EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that employers who use labor contractors to recruit H-2A workers can be liable under Title VII as a joint employer for non-workplace matters—such as claims for housing, meals, and transportation—even if such matters are contractually delegated to a labor contractor.

Fourth Circuit Adopts the Joint Employer Test for Title VII Claims

In Butler v. Drive Auto. Indus. of Am., Inc., the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over North and South Carolina) joined the majority of federal appellate courts in holding that multiple entities may simultaneously be considered the employers of an employee for purposes of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Definition of Supervisor for Title VII Claims and Rejects Broad Interpretation

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a much anticipated ruling in a 5-4 decision which will help employers defend themselves against Title VII actions involving supervisors. In an earlier alert, we discussed the salient facts of Vance v. Ball State University, No. 11-556, Supreme Court of the United States (June 24, 2013), and the splits in the federal circuits over the definition of supervisor for purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII.

Legal Alert: Supreme Court Adopts Narrow Definition of Supervisor Under Title VII

Executive Summary: On June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion favorable to employers, determining the term "supervisor" under Title VII should be defined narrowly. In Vance v. Ball State University, the Court limited employers' vicarious liability for workplace harassment by a "supervisor" to harassing conduct by persons with authority to take tangible employment actions (hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, discipline) against the victim. For the first time defining "supervisor" for Title VII purposes, the Court defined it narrowly and favorably to employers. The Court split 5-4 along ideological lines with Justice Alito writing the majority opinion for the conservative wing of the Court. Justice Ginsburg was joined in her dissent by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan.

Supreme Court Clarifies Title VII’s Definition of “Supervisor” for Harassment Claims

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court decided Vance v. Ball State University, ruling that only those employees who have the authority to take “tangible employment actions” qualify as supervisors for purposes of harassment claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since the Supreme Court’s 1998 decisions in Faragher and Ellerth, the applicable standards for evaluating harassment claims have differed depending not only upon the nature of the conduct, but also upon the status of the employee accused of the harassing behavior. Where the alleged harasser is a “supervisor,” the employer is automatically liable for any harassment that results in a tangible employment action (as described below). Even with respect to harassment that does not result in a tangible employment action, an employer can only avoid liability for a supervisor’s harassment if (i) the employer can prove that it took reasonable measures to prevent and correct harassment; and (ii) the employer can also prove that the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the employer’s anti-harassment policies and procedures. By contrast, co-worker harassment only exposes an employer to liability if the employee can prove that the employer negligently failed to discover or remedy the harassment. Clearly, the proper definition of “supervisor” is of enormous significance in analyzing an employer’s potential harassment liability under Title VII.

Supreme Court Adopts Narrow Definition of Supervisor for Harassment Law

Justice Alito writing for the court succinctly sets out today's holding in Vance v. Ball State (S.Ct. 6/24/13)

Supreme Court Confirms The Definition Of "Supervisor" Under Title VII

On June 24, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, for purposes of employer liability for harassment under Title VII, a supervisor is defined as someone who can undertake or effectively recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the victim, in other words, someone who can make 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.” Vance v. Ball State University.

Employment Law Update: US Supreme Court Set to Define "Supervisor" for Purposes of Title VII

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case that could have a significant impact on employer liability. Specifically, as the result of an appeal in Vance v. Ball State University, et al, 646 F.3d 461 (7th Cir. 2011), the Court is poised to decide who qualifies as a “supervisor” for purposes of liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Supreme Court Hears Argument in Case Asking, “Who Qualifies As a Supervisor?”

The United States Supreme Court recently held oral arguments in Vance v. Ball State University, a case which has the potential to drastically expand who qualifies as a “supervisor” for purposes of Title VII harassment suits. This is a critical question for employers because supervisor harassment renders an employer automatically liable unless it can prove it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct such harassment and that the victim unreasonably failed to engage the employer’s protective measures. In contrast, co-worker harassment renders an employer liable only if the employee can prove that the employer was negligent in discovering or remedying the harassment.
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