Supreme Court Splits on Discrimination Suits

750px-Supreme_Court_Front_DuskAs reported by the Washington Post, the Supreme Court decided two worker protection suits with split decisions yesterday.

In both cases, the court voted 5 to 4 to make it harder for employees to challenge what they considered workplace harassment and retaliation for complaints of discrimination, violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The first case potentially limits the possible defendants of a discrimination suit, the other raises the bar for proving retaliation.  As described,

In one, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s majority opinion said that a worker must be able to hire, fire or demote someone to be considered a “supervisor,” even if the person is responsible for another’s daily work duties. The distinction is important because a company is liable for a supervisor’s racist or sexist behavior, but it can be more difficult to prove the company’s liability if the objectionable behavior comes from a co-worker.

In the other, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said victims must prove to juries in a retaliation suit that the actions taken against them came only as a result of the employee’s complaint of discrimination and not other reasons.

For more information, see the full story from the Washington Post or read the decisions in Vance v. Ball State University or University of Texas Southwest Medical Center v. Nassar.