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Supreme Court Clarifies Definition of ‘Supervisor’ in Hostile Work Environment Cases

In Vance v. Ball State University, (June 24, 2013), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s broad interpretation of who is a “supervisor” for purposes of imposing vicarious liability on an employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Court defined “supervisory” authority as the power to 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.”  Although Vance is a helpful case for employers by narrowing the group of people who fit the definition of “supervisor”, employers should continue with their efforts to prevent workplace harassment through training and a thorough investigations of any alleged harassment.

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