The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision on June 24 in the Vance v. Ball State University case that found Ball State University not liable for the hostile work environment allegations that were made by an employee.
The Supreme Court decided that the university was not liable for the hostile work environment because the alleged bad boss could not be considered the employee’s supervisor. The Supreme Court ruled that one can only be considered a supervisor if or she has the ability to hire or fire other employees.
It is much more difficult for employees to win a discrimination lawsuit against their employer if the person accused of the harassment or discrimination is not a supervisor.
In the Vance v. Ball State University case, Maetta Vance, who was the only black woman working in the Indiana university’s catering department, claims that her boss, Shaundra Davis, subjected her to racial harassment and retaliation in 2005.
According to the complaint, Davis assigned Vance to menial tasks, created a racially hostile work environment that included frequent references to the Ku Klux Klan, physical threats, and Vance claims that Davis slapped her on one occasion.
A federal judge dismissed Vance’s lawsuit because, even though Davis controlled and assigned Vance’s daily activities, she did not have the authority to demote or fire Vance.
The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the federal judge and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the judge’s decision, that Davis could not be considered Vance’s supervisor, and, because Ball State University took corrective action regarding Vance’s complaint, the university was not liable for Davis’ actions.
[Image: Rob Shenk]