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This matter turned on the Court’s interpretation of the role of “manager” as earlier defined by the Court in the landmark Farragher v. Boca Raton.  Employers and HR pros have never had much trouble with this definition:  A manager can hire, fire, and evaluate performance of personnel and affect compensation; a supervisor can direct work, ensure quality and assign tasks.  Simple, right?

Not for the EEOC, which sees no material difference between the two, as apparently neither does Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.  It remains to be seen how this will impact EEOC guidance.  In the meantime, employers should endeavor to establish bright lines between the authority of managers and supervisors; the latter role should have no authority to affect the terms and conditions of employment of personnel.  Avail yourselves of this distinction and you go a long way towards avoiding direct liability for the actions of supervisors in matters involving harassment.

You can read the full SCOTUS decision here.