The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently issued a precedential opinion interpreting what it means to be a supervisor in a hostile work environment case. The Court found that a supervisor is someone who controls a sizeable amount of the hours employees work, and/or someone who determines whether employees will be assigned work.
Moody v. Atlantic City Board of Education
Employee Michelle Moody was hired by the Atlantic City Board of Education (BOE) to serve as a substitute custodian in 2011. Moody alleged that she was unhappy with the unsteady nature of her employment, as she was only gainfully employed when the primary custodian could not work. She wanted to work more hours and raised her concerns with a member of the BOE, who suggested that she speak to the custodial foremen of different districts. The BOE member told her that these foremen were responsible for delegating authority to select which substitute custodian would fill in at schools in their respective districts.
Moody then contacted 10 foremen from different school districts, including one named Maurice Marshall. Marshall allegedly began harassing Moody immediately after she started work. According to the Court’s opinion, he allegedly suggested that he would give her more work if she performed sexual favors for him. After a litany of disturbing incidents, including explicit text messages, unwanted sexual contact, and unwanted visits to her home, Moody succumbed to Marshall’s unwanted advances. Although she never received more work hours, after reporting Marshall, her work hours steadily declined.
Determining the Meaning of Supervisor
Moody filed a claim in the District of New Jersey, which was ultimately dismissed on grounds that Marshall was not her supervisor, and that she suffered no tangible adverse employment action. The Third Circuit reversed that decision after an extensive review of Marshall’s role in assigning work to other employees. The Court examined a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that interpreted the term of supervisor. Ultimately, the Third Circuit determined that Marshall had the power to decide whether Moody worked at all and had authority to set her hours, falling under the Supreme Court’s definition of a supervisor. The court also found that during the times Moody was chosen to fill in at Marshall’s school, he was her immediate supervisor.
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