“Are You My Supervisor?: The Scope of Supervisory Authority Under Title VII”
What degree of authority must an individual possess to establish a supervisory relationship for purposes of imputing liability for a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)? The Circuit Courts disagree. The First, Seventh and Eighth Circuits have adopted a narrow view, requiring a plaintiff to demonstrate that the individual alleged to be a supervisor has the direct power to affect the terms and conditions of a subordinate’s employment. The Second, Fourth and Ninth Circuits, by contrast, subscribe to the broader view advocated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), potentially imputing liability where the employee’s authority enabled or materially augmented his or her ability to create a hostile work environment for a subordinate. The US Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will resolve this dispute in the next term.