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What makes someone a supervisor? Employees have practical reasons for knowing the answer to this question, but courts must also know the answer, because it dictates the standard for employer liability for workplace harassment. Yesterday, November 26, 2012, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Vance v. Ball State University, a case raising the question how much power or control an employee must have over other employees before he or she is deemed a “supervisor” in the harassment context. While the issue might seem technical, it takes on substantive importance too, as it implicates the scope and strength of harassment law and the ability, or lack thereof, of victims to enforce their anti-discrimination rights in court.



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