Case Analysis of the Vance v. Ball State University

Paper Type:  Course work
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  960 Words
Date:  2022-04-07


The case ruling by the Supreme Court affirmed its judgment against the claims made by Vance against Ball State University. The decision was made after considering the Ellerth's and Faragher's case, which utilized a narrow definition of the word 'supervisor.' The petitioner, Maetta Vince had filled the case against BSU after facing discrimination from an employee, Saundra Davis. Davis was accused of creating a racially hostile environment for Vince through several actions. Some of the actions included slamming of pots and pans, intimidations, and weird looks, which, as explained by Vince, led to a hostile working environment. Evidently, the actions above all seemed to violate the Title VI I. However, since Vince had decided to sue file a petition against the BSU and not the employee, the court could not find fault with the accused in regards to the law.

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It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court allows the accuser to evade legal implication on an issue that reflects harassment. The court seemed to take the route of least resistance, which meant adopting the use of the narrow description of the word supervisor. First, the EEOC observes that the employer is vicariously responsible for harassment actions of the organization's supervisors and also if it practices arrogance when other employees propagate harassment (EEOC, n.d). This documentation does not go ahead to define the meaning of the word "supervisor" clearly neither does it lay down the responsibilities of a supervisor. The petitioner, Vance, filled the case with the EEOC with the hope that the commission would implement the laws under Title VII, which seek to protect employees from discrimination in the working place. The petitioner, Vance, worked as a full-time catering assistant in BSU. Later, Davis was employed as a catering specialist in the same institution. BSU has no clear roles for Davis, but she was working above Vance in the department. Thus, Vance viewed Davis as her supervisor. According to the EEOC, the employer was vicariously responsible for any harassment actions of the supervisors.

It is clear that Vance filed the lawsuit with the court in the Southern District of Indiana with the business or common understanding of the meaning of the word 'supervisor.' She contended that her understanding of the word relied on the general usage of the word. The word can easily be used to refer to an employee who can control the roles and duties of other employees (Bagenstos, 2014). Such ability is only available when the employer has a special relationship with the supervising employee. This would mean that the agency supports the actions of the supervisor in such a case. Vance was not aware of other legal definitions of the term, which made her lose the case. Notably, the word 'supervisor' has many definitions that can be seen as narrow or broad definitions. Some courts use the word to describe individuals who possess authority over subordinates' day-to-day activities and duties (Bagenstos, 2014). Alternatively, other courts adopt the precise definition of the word that qualifies an individual to be a supervisor only when they can exercise tangible duties over the subordinate. The tangible employment action as described by the court in Faragher and Ellerth.

The Supreme's court decision was based on preceding rulings in Faragher and Ellerth. The rulings in the two cases led to the development of the Ellerth/Faragher framework. A supervisor, according to the Faragher/Ellerth framework, is a person who can exercise tangible employment action that has some form of economic implication on the victim (Meyers, 2015). Some of the actions include the ability to perform or efficiently recommend suspension, hiring, transfer, discipline, promotion, discharge, rewarding, and assignment of other employees. In Ellerth, the petitioner was undoubtedly the supervisor as he could hire and promote the victim. In Faragher, Faragher, a female lifeguard, sued the employer following the action of two other lifeguard employees, Terry and Silverman. In this case, although it was doubtless that Terry had supervisory roles over Faragher, Silverman's roles were less than those of a supervisor. Terry has tangible employer abilities while Silverman could only make the daily assignments of the lifeguards, and supervise the fitness training program. However, the court ruled in favor of Faragher. This sheds a little confusion on the adoption of the role of a supervisor by the court in the Faragher case. In the Vance case, the Supreme Court decided to adopt the narrow description of the term 'supervisor' thus favoring thus ruling against petitioner.


The ruling in the Vance case limits has constrictive implications on the employer/employee relationship. Notably, adoption of the narrow definition of the word 'supervisor' reduces the protection of the employers from discrimination. Accordingly, employers can easily evade vicarious duty by reducing the number of supervisors in an organization. The ruling by the Supreme Court limits the wide scope of defining the vicarious liability of the employer as observed by the EEOC following Title VII. With time, employers will limit the number of powers conferred to employees. Also, the employers will increase the channels of reporting harassments to reduce the instance of negligence from the management. Consequently, the interaction between the employer and the employee will decrease due to the creation of clear boundaries of roles and powers. Agencies are also adopting explicit organizational allocation of powers that define the roles and powers of the various cadres of employees. This will reduce the incidences of overlapping roles that causes conflicting


EEOC. (n.d). Harassment. Retrieved from

Bagenstos, S. R. (2014). Formalism and Employer Liability under Title VII. University of Chicago Legal Forum 2014, 145-176.

Meyers, S. D. (2015). Who's the boss: The definition of supervisor in workplace harassment under Vance v. Ball State University. Saint Louis University Law Journal 59(3), 939-[ii].

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Case Analysis of the Vance v. Ball State University. (2022, Apr 07). Retrieved from

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