On June 24, 2013, a divided U.S. Supreme Court issued much-anticipated decisions in two Title VII cases in which the Court provided some needed certainty and relief to employers on the front lines of employment litigation. In one case, the Court clarified who may be considered a “supervisor” of an employee for purposes of vicarious liability, and, in another case, it raised the ante for plaintiffs’ burden of proof for retaliation claims.
Victory No. 1: Employee must have power to hire, fire, and discipline to be a “supervisor.”
In Vance v. Ball State University, the Court narrowly defined “supervisor” in the context of Title VII discrimination cases to include only those employees who are empowered to take “tangible employment actions,” thereby shielding employers from liability for discriminatory behavior of mere co-workers.
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