Proposed Legislation in Maryland Regarding the Definition of Supervisors

Date: March 23, 2015

By Tiffany Releford

In Vance v. Ball State University, 133 S. Ct. 243 (2013), the Supreme Court narrowed the EEOC's definition of a supervisor, which included individuals with broad day-to-day supervisory authority, to find that an employer can be held vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts of a supervisor, if the supervisor has the power to take tangible employment actions against the employee.  In other words, the definition of supervisor was limited to those individual with the ability to hire, fire, transfer, or affect the status of the employee.  The Maryland General Assembly has introduced House Bill 42, the “Fair Employment Preservation Act of 2015,” to codify existing state law and apply the broader definition of supervisor adopted by Maryland state and federal courts prior to the Vance ruling.  The legislation recognizes that a supervisor often is a person that directs the daily work activities of an employee, but may not have authority to take tangible employment action against the employee.  Since the Vance decision is an interpretation of federal law and not Maryland law on employment discrimination, the purpose of the bill is to recognize that the Vance decision does not limit the authority of Maryland courts with regard to vicarious liability of employers under specified circumstances in employment discrimination and retaliation cases based on quid pro quo harassment or the creation or continuation of harassment in a hostile work environment.  A hearing on the bill was held in February 2015; however, the bill has not been scheduled for a vote.