In 1990s (in a pair of lawsuit/writs) the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employer is automatically liable under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for discrimination by an employer who is a “supervisor.” On the other hand, if a co-worker discriminates, the company is liable only if the victim complains to her employer and the employer is negligent in responding to the complaint.
The Court has held that to be a “supervisor,” a person must have the power to take a “tangible employment action” against the victim. That is, he must be able to “effect a ‘significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.’” The employer was entitled to win the case because Vance did not shown that the person who discriminated against her was a supervisor under the Court’s definition. (Read : Gurumurthy Kalyanaram on False Claim ActAnti-Retaliation Provision)
The decision was rendered by a majority if 5-4, and Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion. Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, dissented. In the dissent, they wrote that the majority decision “ignores the conditions under which members of the work force labor, and disserves the objective of Title VII to prevent discrimination from infecting the Nation’s workplaces.” But the majority opinion the new interpretation of a “supervisor,” and law of the land for assessing the legal viability of complaints and lawsuit.