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Monday, July 16, 2012

Vance v. Ball State University: US Supreme Court to Determine Scope of Title VII Supervisor Liability

On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in Vance v. Ball State University (Case No. 11-556) to decide the following issue:
In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998), and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998), this Court held that under Title VII, an employer is vicariously liable for severe or pervasive workplace harassment by a supervisor of the victim. If the harasser was the victim’s co-employee, however, the employer is not liable absent proof of negligence. In the decision below, the Seventh Circuit held that actionable harassment by a person whom the employer deemed a “supervisor” and who had the authority to direct and oversee the victim’s daily work could not give rise to vicarious liability because the harasser did not also have the power to take formal employment actions against her. 
The question presented is: Whether, as the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits have held, the Faragher and Ellerth “supervisor” liability rule (i) applies to harassment by those whom the employer vests with authority to direct and oversee their victim’s daily work, or, as the First, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits have held (ii) is limited to those harassers who have the power to “hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline” their victim.
The Court will hear the case in the term that begins in October, 2012, and we can expect a ruling by the end of June, 2013. The Court's docket is here.

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