Sexual harassment in the workplace is something that should never be tolerated. In Missouri, workers are protected from harassment under both state and federal law. When harassment occurs despite the laws, the employee can file a civil lawsuit against their employer. Most often these cases are based on a supervisor’s actual harassment or his or her failure to correct harassing behavior by other employees.

In these cases, proof the actual harassment is necessary. The issue of whether a comment or action rises to the level of harassment under the law is often argued about during trial, but this is not the only issue that a case may turn on. Even the definition of a supervisor is something that is argued over. Each state has a definition that may vary from a neighboring state, may be based off of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s or vary from it completely, and even the application of a single definition from court to court may vary. This is why the Supreme Court was asked this week to determine what the term “supervisor” actually means.

The EEOC’s definition states that a supervisor is someone who has “authority to direct daily work activities or to recommend employment actions.” While this is a definition, it is still quite broad. In this day-and-age an employee may report to or receive tasks from several different people, are they all supervisors? Does “recommending employment actions” require the ability to hire, fire, both or does it only mean that they have control over performance reports?

The variation in state and federal laws as well as the application of a law requires strong advocacy. Choosing the right attorney really can make the difference in a sexual harassment lawsuit and in the amount of damages an victim of the harassment could receive.

Source: NPR, “Supreme Court To Look At Who Is A ‘Supervisor’ In Harassment Cases,” Nina Totenberg, Nov. 26, 2012

If you have questions about filing a sexual harassment lawsuit based on unwelcome sexual advances or comments, our Kansas City website provides information and access to experienced advocates.