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U.S. Supreme Court steps in to get HR and employers on same page

In just the last year alone, district courts across the nation have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of cases dealing with everything from discrimination to sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite the outcome to the trials, one thing has become fairly clear to judges of the U.S. Supreme Court: employers are not on the same page as their human resources department.

On the first Monday of this month, U.S. Supreme Court justices convened to not only discuss the recent court cases but come to a decision on how these cases will affect employers in the future.

One particular case that will be reviewed has several federal appellate courts at odds with each other. The case pivots on whether an employer can be held liable for "severe or pervasive" harassment by supervisors who oversee an employee's work and does that supervisor then have the right to fire a person claiming harassment or discrimination.

Judges in the 7th Circuit Courts have pointed out that many of the cases that they have ruled on deal with people being harassed, discriminated against, and fired by people who did not hold supervisor positions but were acting in a supervisory role. Because of this, the Supreme Court could end up redefining the term "supervisor" for purposes of determining an employer's liability for harassment under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Overall, no one is really sure how the Supreme Court judges will rule after taking all cases into consideration. Experts across the nation do agree that in order to make decisions in the future easier and fairer, judges need to clarify the language of the law and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Source:, "U.S. Supreme Court's HR Docket," Tom Starner, Oct. 17, 2012

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