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Vance v. Ball State University    
  ISSUE: Scope of the "supervisor" liability rule under Title VII. 

Oral argument November 26, 2012 

Vance sued the employer for violation of Title VII alleging hostile work environment and retaliation among other claims. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment. The 7th Circuit affirmed. The 7th Circuit concluded that the employer conducted investigations of Vance's complaints demonstrating that there was no basis for employer liability on her hostile work environment claim. As for conduct allegedly committed by a "supervisor," the 7th Circuit said, "We have not joined other circuits in holding that the authority to direct an employee’s daily activities establishes supervisory status under Title VII."  

Case below: Vance v. Ball State University (7th Cir 06/03/2011) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted: June 25, 2012 
Oral argument: November 26, 2012

Questions presented in petition for certiorari:   

In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998), and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998), this Court held that under Title VII, an employer is vicariously liable for severe or pervasive workplace harassment by a supervisor of the victim. If the harasser was the victim’s co-employee, however, the employer is not liable absent proof of negligence. In the decision below, the Seventh Circuit held that actionable harassment by a person whom the employer deemed a “supervisor” and who had the authority to direct and oversee the victim’s daily work could not give rise to vicarious liability because the harasser did not also have the power to take formal employment actions against her.

The question presented is:

Whether, as the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits have held, the Faragher and Ellerth “supervisor” liability rule (i) applies to harassment by those whom the employer vests with authority to direct and oversee their victim’s daily work, or, as the First, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits have held (ii) is limited to those harassers who have the power to “hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline” their victim.

Briefs on the merits: 

Certiorari Documents: 


  • For Petitioner: David T. Goldberg; Donahue & Goldberg, LLP; 99 Hudson Street, 8th Floor; New York, NY  10013; david@donahuegoldberg.com; (212) 334-8813. 
  • For Respondent: Scott E. Shockley; DeFur Voran; 400 South Walnut Street; Muncie, IN  47305; sshockley@defur.com; (765) 288-3651. 

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