discrimination charge

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 Releases Workplace Discrimination Charge Statistics

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has made released its workplace discrimination litigation statistics for 2012.  In total, the EEOC received 99,412 charges of employment discrimination and unlawful termination from October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012 (versus 99,947 charges in 2011).  The EEOC filed 122 in 2012 (as compared to 261 in 2011).  The 2012 lawsuits resulted in a total monetary recovery of $44.2 million. The EEOC enforces many federal unlawful discrimination statutes, prohibiting workplace discrimination, including Title VII (which covers race, gender, national origin, and sexual orientation, among other protected classes); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (age discrimination); the Americans with Disabilities Act (disability discrimination); the Equal Pay Act (pay discrimination); and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (genetic information discrimination).

The most prevalent charges filed with the EEOC in 2012 were for retaliation (38.1%); race discrimination (33.7%) and sex discrimination (30.5%).

If you feel that you have suffered any workplace discrimination, harassment or have been unlawfully terminated, please contact us.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (www.ada.gov) ("ADA") requires employer to provide “reasonable accommodations” to their disabled employees.  But what exactly is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA? The Code of Federal Regulations defines an accommodation as “any change in the work environment or the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities."


In general, there are 3 categories of reasonable accommodations:  (1) modifications/adjustments to the job application process, (2) modifications/adjustments to the work environment, or (3) modifications/adjustments that enable the employee equal benefits and privileges of employment that similarly situated employees without disabilities enjoy.  In general, the disabled employee must inform the employer of his or her desire for an accommodation.

A reasonable accommodation under the ADA may include:

  • making existing facilities accessible;
  • job restructuring;
  • part-time or modified work schedules;
  • telecommuting
  • acquiring or modifying equipment;
  • changing tests, training materials, or policies;
  • reassignment

Recall that the accommodation has to be “reasonable.”  While there is no clear cut test for what is reasonable, it essentially comes down to common sense.  To be reasonable an accommodation has to be practically feasible from the employer’s perspective.  From the employee’s perspective, an accommodation is reasonable when it enables the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her own job and provides him or her with an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment that employees without disabilities enjoy.

Too many people misunderstand their rights under disability discrimination laws.  If you have any questions, please contact us for further information.