The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear an important case next term on the definition of “supervisor” under Title VII harassment law. At issue: Whether the supervisor liability rule applies to employees who oversee and direct other’s daily work but have no formal authority to hire, fire, demote or promote. (Vance v. Ball State University, No. 11-556)
Why is this important? It affects how vulnerable your organization is to a harassment lawsuit. If a harasser is a supervisor, your organization’s only defense would be that it had an effective harassment policy and procedure in place, but the harassed employee failed to follow it. However, if the alleged harasser is simply a co-worker (not a supervisor), your organization can be found liable only if the company failed to take reasonable steps to stop the harassment.