Can you tell your boss to buzz off without a significant change to your wages, your job duties, your employment status or your benefits package? If so, your boss may not be your supervisor for Title VII harassment purposes, according to a United States Supreme Court majority in Vance v. Ball.
Justices voted that an employer is vicariously liable for harassment by a manager who is a supervisor — a person authorized by the employer to take a tangible employment action against the employee — but not for the actions of a superior who oversees an employee’s day to day activity without the power to affect changes to the employee’s job status unless the plaintiff employee can show that:

  • The employee filed complaints against the superior but the employer failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct harassment, and/or the employee was reasonable when he or she chose not to accept alternatives offered by the employer to prevent or correct the harassment by the superior
  • The employer was negligent in controlling workplace conditions and knew or should have known that illegal activity was occurring on a job site

The fine-line distinction between superior and supervisor makes a business owner’s awareness of the ongoing harassment a key issue in the case. If the manager cannot take a tangible employment action (such as firing, demoting, reassigning or adjusting employment benefits) against you as an employee, you must acquire more evidence before the court can hold the business employer financially accountable.

A New York hostile work environment lawyer can help you understand your rights and options. The New York City Sexual Harassment Attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group have handled many cases of employment discrimination and workplace sexual harassment call today at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation.