Thanks to the Supreme Court: Narrower Definition of "Supervisor" Provides Opportunities for Employers

What To Do Next
Employers should begin by reviewing the language in their job descriptions and examining how they classify employees. If an employee does not have the authority to make the types of tangible employment decisions the Supreme Court cited, his or her job description should make this clear. However, the Supreme Court noted that if the power to make such decisions is effectively delegated, so that a higher-up is simply rubber-stamping any decision, the employee actually making the decision may still be held to be a supervisor.
 
Often leadmen and crew leaders are perceived as having such authority. If that is not the employer's intent, their job descriptions should make that limitation clear. In general, employers should ensure that all job descriptions are clear and that only the employees best suited to wield the power to take tangible employment decisions actually have that power.
 
Finally, employers should also ensure that those identified as supervisors receive appropriate supervisory training in discrimination, harassment, non-retaliation, and other employment law topics. Likewise, the employer's anti-harassment policy should be posted and otherwise clearly communicated to all employees on a regular basis.
 
The recent Supreme Court decision promises to limit which employees constitute supervisors and may help employers shut down harassment lawsuits earlier in the process. Nonetheless, employers should take proactive steps to ensure every effort is being made to ensure harassment is not occurring to begin with and that if it does occur, it is immediately addressed. After all, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
 
Read additional labor and employment law articles by Richard Alaniz.
 
About the author:
Richard D. Alaniz is senior partner at Alaniz and Schraeder, a national labor and employment firm based in Houston. He has been at the forefront of labor and employment law for over thirty years, including stints with the US Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. Rick is a prolific writer on labor and employment law and conducts frequent seminars to client companies and trade associations across the country. Questions about this article can be addressed to Rick at (281) 833-2200 or ralaniz@alaniz-schraeder.com.

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