U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number



2012 Term

Oral Argument Date

November 26, 2012

Lower Court Opinion

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit


Questions Presented

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.

Case Updates

Supreme Court says employee is a “supervisor” only if empowered to take tangible employment actions against victim

June 24, 2013

The Court held that an employee is a “supervisor” for purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII only if he or she is empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

October 26, 2012

NCLC urged the Supreme Court to approve a bright-line definition of “supervisor” applied by three Circuit Courts of Appeals because the circuit courts' clear definition provides employers with certainty about whose acts may subject them to vicarious liability, and, therefore promotes Title VII's primary objective of preventing workplace harassment. This case arises from alleged work place harassment against the plaintiff by her coworkers. The plaintiff alleges the defendant university should also be liable for the acts of her coworkers because those coworkers would qualify as “supervisors” under a definition advocated by the EEOC.

NCLC argues in its amicus brief that while no single legal definition will ever perfectly capture the on-the-ground realities of every workplace, adopting the bright-line definition of “supervisor” best promotes Title VII's primary objective of preventing workplace harassment: It puts employers on notice of whose discriminatory acts they will be held liable for and, therefore, provides direction as to where to focus their screening, training, and monitoring efforts. NCLC notes that if employers can readily identify the “supervisors” who might trigger automatic liability, they can more effectively prevent workplace harassment. Conversely, the EEOC's open-ended definition provides inadequate guidance to employers and thus creates less incentive to undertake effective prevention efforts.

Case Documents