Discrimination

Racial Discrimination in The Workplace: Vance vs. Ball

The rules have now changed in discrimination lawsuits and hostile work environments, as proven in Vance v. Ball State University, the US Supreme Court’s workplace discrimination ruling. In a 5-4 outcome, the US Supreme Court altered the landscape in which employees could sue for discrimination and hostile work environments by narrowly defining what constitutes a ‘supervisor’. The federal court defined a supervisor as one with the ability to hire, fire, demote and discipline in the workplace; specifically, one who is authorized to ‘take tangible employment actions against the victim’.

Accused of Racial Discrimination

In the case of Vance v. Ball State, a racial discrimination case, Maetta Vance accused her supervisor, Sandra Davis, of creating a hostile working environment and claimed racial discrimination. Vance, an African American woman, was the only black employee in the catering department at Ball State University and repeatedly suffered racial harassment by co-workers and workers in superior positions, to include Ku Klux Klan references, physical altercations, and demeaning tasks. Vance’s supervisors investigated the claims, but only provided written and oral reprimands to Vance’s co-workers and the harassment continued.

What is a 'Supervisor'

Under the court’s ruling and definition of ‘supervisor’, Vance’s discrimination case was thrown out, as Vance’s supervisor, Sandra Davis, did not meet the newly defined requirements of ‘supervisor’. Although Davis supervised daily work activities and had the ability to impact employment actions, Davis’ functions did not meet the comprehensive definition set forth by the US Supreme Court, as Davis did not have the authority to fire or demote Vance. In light of this failure to meet the new definition, Ball State University could not be held accountable for the hostile work environment. Vance has appealed this ruling based on the definition of supervisor by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC defines supervisor as any individual in the position of recommending employment actions and assigning or directing daily work activities.

Currently under the decision of the court, workers such as Maetta Vance will have little to no recourse for discrimination and harassment endured in the workplace. Other victims of discrimination and harassment who find themselves in the shoes of Maetta Vance will find proving their case a much heavier burden since the ruling of the US Supreme Court.

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If you've been treated unfairly based on a protected characteristic such as race you have the right to sue and seek compensation. Contact a New York Discrimination Lawyer to learn your rights.

EEOC Rules Transgender Status Protected from Discrimination Under Title VII

Employment Discrimination on the basis of gender includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and transgender status.  If you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination on the basis of your gender or gender identity, our New York employment discrimination attorneys can help you fight for your rights. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently determined that discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex or transgender status constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Mia Macy claimed that she was denied a job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when she announced that she would be transitioning her gender from male to female.  Macy applied for the job as a man and was told that she would get the job pending a background check, but was informed the position was no longer available after stating that she would be undergoing a sex change operation.

Believing she had been unlawfully denied the position, Macy filed a charge with the EEOC.  The EEOC determined that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII.  The EEOC explained that Title VII's protections encompass a person’s biological sex, as well as their gender, which includes cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.

In making its determination, the EEOC relied on U.S. Supreme Court precedent holding that Title VII forbids employers from penalizing employees who fail to conform to stereotypical norms.  Under that precedent, Macy would have been discriminated against if she was denied a position due to the perception that her transgender status did not conform to gender stereotypes.

A copy of the decision is here:  https://www.pcc.edu/programs/paralegal/documents/macy-v-holder.pdf

If you believe you have been a victim of employment discrimination on the basis of your gender or gender identity, please contact one of our New York employment discrimination attorneys.