Monday, June 25, 2012

SCOTUS Grants Cert in Supervisor Liability Case

Breaking news from the Supreme Court (sorry, no health care opinion today): The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Vance v. Ball State University. You can read the order here in case you think I'm lying.

The Petitioner's Brief (available here) identifies the Question Presented as:
In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998), and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998), this Court held that under Title VII, an employer is vicariously liable for severe or pervasive workplace harassment by a supervisor of the victim. If the harasser was the victim’s co-employee, however, the employer is not liable absent proof of negligence. In the decision below, the Seventh Circuit held that actionable harassment by a person whom the employer deemed a “supervisor” and who had the authority to direct and oversee the victim’s daily work could not give rise to vicarious liability because the harasser did not also have the power to take formal employment actions against her. The question presented is:
Whether, as the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits have held, the Faragher and Ellerth “supervisor” liability rule (i) applies to harassment by those whom the employer vests with authority to direct and oversee their victim’s daily work, or, as the First, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits have held (ii) is limited to those harassers who have the power to “hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline” their victim.
The Court will likely resovle a circuit split on this issue. I was a little disappointed in the Supreme Court's employment law case load for this past season. I'm happy to see a case like this get its day in the Supreme Court, and hope it's a sign that SCOTUS will take on more employment law cases next season.