Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar
The United States Supreme Court recently ruled for employers in two separate cases alleging discrimination and retaliatory discharge.
In the Vance case, Vance accused a co-worker, Davis, of racial harassment and retaliation. Vance sued her employer under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying the university was liable since Davis was her supervisor. Her case was dismissed by the trial court and the dismissal was affirmed by the intermediate appellate court. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the dismissal, holding that for the employer to be liable, Davis must have had the authority to “hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline” Vance.
In the Nassar case, Nassar complained of discrimination and left the employer in favor of another job offer. However, the second employer withdrew the job offer after speaking with a supervisor at his previous place of employment. Nassar sued the previous employer, claiming retaliation for his harassment complaints, and won a jury award of more than $3 million.
The employer appealed to the Supreme Court. The high court reversed the damages award, defining the limited scenario in which a jury could find for an alleged victim in a retaliation lawsuit. The Court reiterated that alleged victims must prove employers’ actions against them were based solely on their intent to retaliate against the alleged victims, not simply that retaliation may have been a part of the motive for acting.
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