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Supreme Court to review rules for supervisor in job-bias suits

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The U.S. Supreme Court will settle a dispute about who can be considered a workplace supervisor for purposes of a federal job-discrimination lawsuit.

The justices on Monday agreed to consider an appeal by a black Ball State University catering worker, whose discrimination claim against the school was thrown out after a federal appeals court said her alleged harasser didn’t qualify as a supervisor. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer can be held liable if a supervisor discriminates against an employee based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Maetta Vance sued Ball State, alleging that a co-worker in the Muncie university’s banquet and catering department -- described as a salaried employee who functioned as a supervisor -- had slapped her, threatened her and referred to her using racial epithets.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ball State couldn’t be held liable because the co-worker didn’t qualify as a supervisor. To be a supervisor, the appeals court said, a co-worker must have the authority to “directly affect the terms and conditions” of employment, such as having the power to hire, fire, demote, or transfer employees.

In her Supreme Court appeal, Vance says the Chicago court’s ruling conflicts with standards used by other federal appeals courts and by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which say that a supervisor is someone with authority to direct an employee’s daily work activities.

The Obama administration filed a brief agreeing with Vance’s argument that the 7th Circuit’s legal definition of supervisor conflicts with standards used by the EEOC and some other courts in job-discrimination cases. The Justice Department, however, urged the court to deny Vance’s appeal, saying the co-worker in her specific case wouldn’t qualify as a supervisory employee under even the EEOC’s description.

The justices will review the case in the term that begins in October.

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  • Wow that's bad law
    The 7th Circuit shows how far out of touch with reality it is. Have any of those clowns ever had a real job?

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  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

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