Natasha J. Baker, co-chair of the Higher Education Council of the Employment Law Alliance and partner at Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, was quoted on Law360 regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Fisher v. University of Texas and Vance v. Ball State.
Regarding the court’s holding in Fisher, Baker offered:
In Fisher v. University of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision, which had upheld the university’s consideration of race as a factor in admissions. When racial classifications are used, they must meet the test for strict scrutiny, which requires a compelling state interest. Further, any classifications must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. Per the majority, the university had been given too much deference regarding whether its plan was ‘narrowly tailored to achieve its stated goal’ — a more diverse student body. The Fifth Circuit must review the case again.
With respect to the Vance decision, Baker noted:
The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Vance v. Ball State, provides clarity on employer liability for supervisory harassment under Title VII. Under Vance, supervisors have the authority to take tangible employment actions, which include ‘a significant change in employment status.’ This distinction is critical — employers are strictly liable for harassment by supervisors. Conversely, employers may avoid liability for actions of nonsupervisors by the exercise of ‘reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior.’ The decision underscores the necessity of clearly drafted job descriptions that delegate authority to take tangible employment actions and anti-harassment policies that are clearly communicated and enforced.