Depressing court decisions

for those who care about harassment and discrimination.

Monday was a great day for sexual harassers and for bosses who retaliate against workers claiming discrimination. The rest of us did not fare so well in the Supreme Court. While most Court watchers will likely focus on the narrower-than-expected decision in the Fisher affirmative action case, the most lasting impact of today’s decisions likely will be the twin blows struck against women and minorities in the workplace. Taking advantage of employees just became a whole lot easier.
The first case, which we previously labeled the “scariest pending Supreme Court case that you’ve probably never heard of” made it significantly easier for many people’s bosses to racially or sexually harass them and get away with it. Though the law provides fairly robust protection to workers harassed by their supervisor, the Court’s 5-4 decision in Vance v. Ball State University defined the term “supervisor” very narrowly. Under today’s decision, your boss is only your “supervisor” if they have the power to make a “significant change in [your] employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.”

Thanks, L.

6 thoughts on “Depressing court decisions

  1. That is a strange definition of ‘supervisor’. At least where I’ve worked, a supervisor was anyone who both directed work and was responsible for the work done under them. Typically for the lowest rung of supervisors, the power to take any actual disciplinary action–like that identified in the SC case as constitutive of being a supervisor–was held by someone higher up the chain.

    Most worker contact, though, was with these supervisors without direct disciplinary authority, so it doesn’t seem that they’d qualify as sups under the SC ruling. Is that true, or does the SC recognize their indirect disciplinary authority through their close reporting relation to the higher ups?

  2. If you read the opinion ine Vance case, the Court explains why colloquial definitions of “supervisor” were not applicable in this case. This was extremely context-specific. Ian Millhiser, who should know better, commits a number of exaggerations in the linked piece.

  3. The five evil toads have once again belched out bile. The current Congress is frozen into inactivity. Depression reigns.

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