WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court put new limits on lawsuits claiming on-the-job harassment, throwing out a case filed by a black catering worker who said a colleague slapped her and used racial epithets.
The justices, voting 5-4, said the alleged harasser didn’t qualify as Maetta Vance’s supervisor, a status that would make it easier for the Ball State University worker to win her case.
The court, dividing along ideological lines, said people qualify as supervisors only if they can take tangible employment actions against the alleged victim.
The issue is an important one because employers are generally liable for racial and sexual harassment by supervisors. Workers file more than 30,000 formal harassment complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year.
The case is Vance v. Ball State University, 11-556.