On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled (Vance v. Ball State University) that in cases of harassment, a supervisor is defined as someone who has the power to make tangible employment decisions affecting the victim.
Under this definition, the supervisor would have the power to hire, fire, promote (or withhold promotion), demote, reassign responsibilities, or significantly change benefits of an employee he or she allegedly harassed.
A form of employment discrimination under Title VII, harassment is unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. While it is generally known that the company can be held vicariously liable in harassment cases if the perpetrator is a supervisor, the lesser known factor has been the exact definition of supervisor. This Supreme Court definition clarifies the instances in which the company could be held liable in a harassment lawsuit.
In instances where the alleged harasser was a co-worker, independent contractor, customer, or other non-supervisor, the company would only be held liable if it knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.
If faced with a harassment claim, please contact Nextep’s Human Resources Department for step by step guidance.