Supreme Court Makes It Harder to Sue For Discrimination At Work

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

By Jonathan Stempel
and Lawrence Hurley

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday made it harder for workers to sue their employers over alleged harassment in the workplace, ruling against a catering assistant at an Indiana university who claimed that she was discriminated against on the basis of race. In a 5-4 vote divided along familiar ideological lines, the court said Maetta Vance, who is black, could not sue Ball State University over the alleged taunts and threats made by a white colleague who Vance considered to be her supervisor.

The court had in 1998 said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 let harassment victims hold their employers responsible for improper conduct by a supervisor, but never defined exactly what a supervisor was. Writing for the majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito (pictured above) adopted a narrower version of a supervisor than Vance had proposed.