The U.S. Supreme Court began its 2012-2013 term earlier this week. Here are the cases HR pros need to know about. 

Here’s a summary of two important rulings to come and how they might affect Human Resources, courtesy of Lindsey Marcus and Jeff Nowak of Franczek Radelet:

  1. Vance v. Ball State University. Who qualifies as a “supervisor” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? That’s the question Vance v. Ball State will attempt to answer in what’s perhaps the most relevant case to your daily work.
    This specific case will look at an employee who claimed her supervisor harassed her and subjected her to a hostile work environment. The issue: The woman’s “supervisor” oversaw and directed other staffers’ daily tasks but didn’t have the authority to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline those workers. So was that person really the employee’s manager?
    HR pros know that firms are strictly liable for the actions of a supervisor, but only liable for the actions of a regular employee if the company’s been negligent. The ruling will hopefully clarify what’s been a confusing issue for companies for some time now.
  2. Genesis Health Care Corp. v. Symczyl. This Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) case will address the status of a collective action claim if the original, sole plaintiff receives an offer from the employer that satisfies her claim.
    At question here, according to Marcus and Nowak: Can companies dismantle class action claims by “picking off” the named plaintiffs? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit says no.
    Depending on the findings, the ruling may change the way companies handle and potentially defuse class action suits.

Nowak and Marcus also note that the court will likely take on more cases over the next couple months, including ones addressing the Family and Medical Leave Act and retaliation.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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