The case of Vance v. Ball State University(2013) was a Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that redefined title VII under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.In this case, an African-American employee (Vance) sued a fellow employee (Davis) because Davis created a hostile environment for her when they were working together at the university. Title VII bars workplace discrimination on a racial basis. According to Findlaw (n.d.), the ruling in Vance v. Ball State University(2013) redefined the liability of the employer in workplace harassments. Since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964 states that the burden of the harasser in the workplace depends on the rank or status of the harasser, an employer or the supervisor.
According to Hayslett (2013), Vance faced multiple racial discriminations and physical threats while working at Ball State University. She reported the incidents to her supervisors, but the supervisor did not take reasonable action as her harasser was transferred to another department. When the incident occurred the second time, she reported directly to the University management and the two were counseled. In 2005, the harasser returned to Vance’s department and threatened to slap her again when they met in an elevator. The victim reported the incident and the university launched an investigation where the two were counseled again. However, since the university did not find a lasting solution to the conflict, Vance took her case to the Supreme Court of the United States (LawAspects.com,n.d.). The Supreme Court ruled that Davis (the harasser) was not a supervisor because he did not have the powers to fire, hire, or demote Vance. The court, therefore, failed to hold Davis liable for Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Impact on HR and Future Employers
Vance v. Ball State University(2013) has significant implications on Human Resource (HR) organizations and future consequences in employment. The ruling in Vance v. Ball State University(2013) implies that employers take responsibility for workplace harassments arising from supervisors or among employees.The decision did not have a room for discussion on harassments among co-workers. This has a significant implication on how firms should approach the issue of workplace harassments. The liability on any workplace discrimination is in the hands of the employer who holds the powers to hire, demote, or fire employees.
Current and future employers should have crystal policies that define employee-employer and employee-employee relationships. The employer should have proper procedures determining the actions that could be taken in cases of workplaces actions. The plans should specify the reporting process in case of the workplace in case of harassment. Furthermore, the firm should take reasonable efforts to make sure that all employees are aware of their consequences when they dare harass their co-workers. Since the court ruled that the vicarious liability was in the hands of the employer, it is necessary for firms to make sure that all supervisors or employees are vetted on cases of harassment and discrimination of their co-workers.
Vance v. Ball State University(2013)could protect the organization from litigation if the organization takes all measures to limit workplace discrimination and harassment. According to Grossman (2013), the Supreme Court defined a supervisor as a person who could induce changes in the workplace such as hiring, demoting, or promoting employees. In the future, some organizations could consider empowering supervisors with these responsibilities to avoid harassment litigations. Since harassment litigations and other workplace litigations are expensive for the firm to bear, employers could consider setting reasonable measures to distance themselves from employees that are likely to harass their co-workers.
Vance v. Ball State University(2013) has significant implications for HR departments. Organizations could consider training employees about workplace behavior. As a result, all employees have to be trained on proper conduct while in the workplace. The employer should make sure that the HR department is funded sufficiently to undertake training programs and ensure that all employees are informed of their liabilities in case they harass and discriminate their co-workers.Employees have to know their rights and responsibilities towards their co-workers. If an employee claims to have been harassed, the individual should give a full description of the rank of the harasser when seeking legal assistance. If the harasser is a supervisor, then the firm does not have a role to play but can only become a third party in the legal process. Additionally, if the employee claims that the harasser is a co-worker and the firm has rigid mechanisms in place to limit workplace harassment in the workplace, the court may rule in favor of the firm.
Some organizations could manipulate employees by setting up complex ranks that make it impossible for the employee to identify the harasser. Consider an incident where an employee is appointed to oversee a task or lead a group in a given job for a short time. If the team leader harasses the co-workers, the firm may distance itself from the litigation claiming that the employer was in a supervisory role. As a result, employees assigned leadership roles have to make sure that the functions are defined to avoid exploitation and manipulations by the firm.
I agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Vance v. Ball State University(2013).It is unethical for the employer to assume liability on the behavior of employees unless the employer has failed to set up concrete measures that limit workplace harassments. Even though societies in the U.S have made significant advancement in racial discrimination, elements of gender discrimination are still evident in workplaces. Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to limit and eradicate workplace discriminations. Harassments kill morality in workers and reduce skill development and efficiency. I would not be comfortable working in an environment where I am looked down upon by my co-workers or supervisors.
I am impressed with the implication of the ruling in Vance v. Ball State University(2013) on the employee-employer relationships, even though employers may use loopholes in this case for their advantage. The fact the court seemed to have ruled against the employer implies that employers have to take all measures to avoid litigations. Some of the actions serve the advantage of employees, which brings sanity in workplaces.The Legal Information Institute (n.d.) elaborates that when firms train supervisors on how to conduct themselves in workplaces, cases of harassment and discrimination tend to diminish. This enhances mutual understanding among workers and their supervisors, translating to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Workplace discrimination has adverse effects on employees and organizations at large. Firms should take reasonable measures to limit or eliminate harassments in workplaces. The Supreme Court ruling in Vance v. Ball State University(2013) redefined the role of supervisors and their liabilities in work-related discriminations. Supervisors can only be held liable when they have the power to hire, fire, or demote employees. Organizations have to respond to this ruling by setting policies that limit workplace discriminations to avoid being held accountable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964.
Grossman, J. (2013). The power to harass: the Supreme Court adopts a definition of “supervisor” that reduces employer liability for harassment. Justia. Retrieved from https://verdict.justia.com/2013/06/25/the-power-to-harass
Hayslett, C. (2013). Vance v. Ball State University 133 S. Ct. 2434 (2013). Ohio Northern University Law Review, 40, 643-658. Retrieved from https://law.onu.edu/sites/default/files/643%20-%20Hayslett.pdf
Vance v. Ball State University transcription of oral arguments (2012).LawAspect.com. Retrieved from https://lawaspect.com/case-vance-v-ball-state-university-transcription-oral-argument-november-26-2012/
Vance v. Ball State University et al. (2013). FindLaw. Retrieved from
Vance v. Ball State University:Title Vii:employment discriminationharassmentsupervisor liability (n.d.).Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/11-556
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