Amid the sweeping, high-profile cases decided at the end of the Supreme Court's term on same sex marriage and the Voting Rights Act, one little-noticed case could dramatically change the way employees bring harassment cases against their employers.
The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Vance v. Ball State University does something subtle, but with far-reaching effects: It narrows the definition of the word "supervisor."
In this particular case, Maetta Vance was a dining hall worker at Ball State University in Indiana. Vance, an African-American, sued the university in 2006, alleging that a white supervisory colleague, Saundra Davis, launched a campaign of racial harassment and intimidation against her. Even though Davis didn't have power to fire her, Vance claimed, she did have the power to direct her activities on the job in the university's banquet and catering division.