In Vance v. Ball State University, Maetta Vance was the only African-American in her department. From 2001 to 2007, Vance allegedly was subjected to racially offensive conduct by one or more of her coworkers. In 2006, Vance filed two complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging race discrimination and retaliation. After receiving her right-to-sue letter, Vance sued Ball State for federal and state discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment for Ball State, which the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld. Vance appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who will hear oral arguments on November 26, 2012.
Under existing case law, if a supervisor harasses or discriminates, an employer is automatically vicariously liable for the supervisor’s actions. If the person is not a supervisor, it must be shown that the employer was negligent and that the employer knew or should have known of the harassment or discrimination in order to be liable. The Vance case raises the issue is how much authority an agent (i.e. coworker) of an employer must exercise over an employee in order to be deemed a supervisor under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the 9th Circuit, courts have held that a supervisor is any individual who has authority from the employer to direct and oversee an employee’s daily work. Vance v. Ball State University, 646 F.3d 461 (7th Cir. 2011), cert. granted 6/25/2012.
In Symczyk v. Genesis Healthcare Corp, Laura Symczyk was a registered nurse for Genesis. Two years after she began her job, Symczyk initiated a collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) on behalf of herself and all similarly situated individuals, alleging Genesis violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by implementing a policy subjecting the pay of certain employees to an automatic meal break deduction whether or not they performed compensable work during their breaks. While the case was pending in district court, Genesis served Symczyk with an offer of judgment. She did not respond. Thereafter the district court concluded that Genesis’ offer of judgment mooted the collective action and dismissed the case. The 3rd Circuit reversed. Symczyk raises the issue of whether an offer of judgment made to a lone plaintiff in a FLSA lawsuit prevents other plaintiffs from joining the lawsuit in a collective action. Oral arguments will be heard December 3, 2012. Symczyk v. Genesis Healthcare Corp., 656 F.3d 189 (3d Cir. Pa. 2011), cert. granted 6/25/2012.
The Las Vegas law office of Lagomarsino Law did not represent anyone involved in any cases that may be referenced above. This commentary is for educational purposes. If you would like to be represented by an attorney in our Las Vegas office, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within 24 hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.