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A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

43 Sexual Harassment Cases That Were Thrown Out Because Of One Supreme Court Decision

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The Supreme Court increasingly seems like a partisan political body less interested in protecting citizens’ rights than in protecting corporations and the wealthy. Bryce Covert writes at ThinkProgress:

In March of 2011, Samantha Stabenchek, a 17-year-old at the time, was cornered by her Safeway colleague Jose Lopez at their store. He grabbed her buttocks and kissed her. Stabenchek had endured months of sexual harassment at the hands of Lopez, who made inappropriate comments and sent her explicit text messages. After an internal investigation, the Scottsdale, Arizona store fired him.

Less than a month later, Stabenchek’s mother Mary McCormack, who also worked at Safeway and reported the assault on behalf of her daughter, was accused of violating a store policy on coupons, and the two resigned, feeling that it was connected to the complaint.

They filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Safeway in 2012. The details of the harassment Stabenchek experienced were never up for debate. Instead, the case hinged on whether Lopez counted as her supervisor. When a supervisor harasses someone who works under him, a company like Safeway has a heightened level of responsibility and can be held vicariously liable. If, on the other hand, Lopez was deemed to merely be her coworker, the employer is only held liable if it was negligent in overseeing working conditions and addressing harassment once it became aware of the situation, a standard that’s become very hard for victims to meet and therefore get recompense from their employers.

Stabenchek and McCormack argue that Lopez was, for all intents and purposes, her supervisor. When Stabenchek started the job, he was a front-end manager who was often in charge of the store and controlled when she could take breaks and clock out of work.

“Things like schedules are significant changes for workers,” Liz Watson, senior counsel and director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center, told ThinkProgress, “because they have everything to do with how much money someone earns.” He also sat in on one of her initial job interviews and directed her to sign binding documents for the company.

Before June of 2013, a court may have very well found that Lopez was her supervisor. But that’s not how her case went. Thanks to a Supreme Court decision in the Vance v. Ball State University case, the judge presiding over Mary McCormack, et al v. Safeway Stores Incorporated decided that Lopez wasn’t her supervisor. The Vance decision significantly narrowed the definition of supervisor when it comes to harassment cases, limiting it to someone who has the power to hire, fire, promote, or otherwise tangibly impact a report’s employment.

Advocates for the victims of sexual harassment feared that the Vance decision would make it more difficult to get justice. Their fears have played out. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2014 at 2:33 pm

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