Archived: New 'Supervisor' Definitions Could Increase Discrimination Lawsuits

Is your pending discrimination case “frivolous” litigation Many racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits could be thrown out as such next year, depending how the U.S. Supreme Court decides to clarify its definition of “supervisor” and “coworker.”


Justices recently held an hour-long oral argument to discuss whether a person without the ability to hire or discipline employees can qualify as a supervisor in racial, sexual and religious discrimination cases. An employer automatically assumes liability if a supervisor is accused of harassment; when a coworker is accused, the victim must prove neglect on the part of the employer to extend liability.

Liable for Discrimination

The debate stems from the Vance v. Ball State University racial discrimination case, in which Mattea Vance claimed her “supervisor,” Sandra Davis, created a racially hostile working environment.

The federal courtwhich had defined a supervisor as the power to hire, fire, demote or disciplinethrew out Vance’s case, as Davis’ job responsibilities did not include these functions. Vance appealed because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) defines “supervisor” as anyone who has authority to assign or direct daily work activities or recommend employment actions. Listen to the radio broadcast to learn more.

“There are lots of situations where people have power over other employees when they don’t have the power to fire them, to discipline them, to promote them, to set their wages or things like that,” says University of Virginia law professor Daniel Ortiz, who represents Vance. The AARP and National Partnership for Women & Families also are backing Vance.

“This is consistent with workplaces across America today, where jobs are less hierarchical, more collaborative, and so where you have got more senior employees by virtue of their experience or job title, just a paper title, are in a broad sense team leaders of the like in the workplace,” Gregory Garre, representing the university, told CNN. “That doesn’t mean they are supervisors in any traditional sense.”

Will Discrimination Lawsuits Increase

If the Supreme Court rules in Vance’s favor, it could potentially increase the number of discrimination cases that actually make it to court. The conservative justices argued that a less-restrictive standard could leave companies suffering for the acts of mid-level employees, which would fall under scrutiny.

A decision is not expected until sometime after winter 2013.

Latest News

Marriott International building

Marriott International Receives 12 Platinum Honors at the MUSE Creative Awards

Originally published at news.marriott.com. Marriott International is a Hall of Fame company.   Marriott International’s unmatched portfolio of luxury brands earned 12 Platinum Awards representing 5 dynamic brands, across 10 categories in the 2022 MUSE Creative Awards — an international competition for creative professionals. The industry leader within the luxury…

Marriott International Debuts Its New Global Headquarters Focused on Wellbeing

Originally published at news.marriott.com. Marriott International is a Hall of Fame company.   After six years of planning, design and construction, Marriott International has opened its global headquarters in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. The 21-story, 785,000-square-foot, LEEDv4 Gold-certified building is the new workplace for corporate associates, supporting over 8,100 hotels in 139…

Humana Ranks Highly in the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility Inclusion Index

Originally published at press.humana.com. Humana ranked No. 9 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.   Humana Inc. celebrates the high rankings it recently received in the 2022 Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR) Corporate Inclusion Index (CII), a research initiative that measures Hispanic inclusion in the…