U.S. Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Employers' Liability in Title VII Harassment and Retaliation Claims

by Michael Peabody (August 7, 2013)

On Monday, June 24, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two 5-4 decisions making it more difficult for a plaintiff to prove an employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII is the federal law designed to protect employees from discrimination on the basis of factors such as race, sex, and religion.  It has long been established that an employer’s liability for workplace harassment depends on the status of the harasser.  If the harasser is the victim’s co-worker, the employer can be held liable if it is negligent in controlling working conditions once they are aware, or should be aware, of the harassment.  An employer can also be held liable if the harasser is a supervisor.