07.16.136:11 PM ET

The SCOTUS Ruling You Don’t Know About

Could have impact on workplace harassment.

Decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 stole the limelight in Supreme Court sessions—but their not-as-famous counterparts should get some attention as well. The court made a decision (5-4) in Vance v. Ball State University that could change how employees make harassment cases against their employers, according to The Atlantic. In this case, Maetta Vance was a dining-hall worker at Indiana's Ball State University. Her supervisor allegedly launched a campaign of “racial harassment and intimidation against her.” The Atlantic reports that SCOTUS has narrowed the “definition of the word ‘supervisor’” in the ruling. Vance’s supervisor Saundra Davis didn’t have the power to fire her, but could direct her on what to do in her job. Justice Samuel Alito wrote, in the majority opinion, that employers can be liable “only” when the person has the power of “hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment.” In other words, the precedent set by this ruling has huge impacts. Using this logic, if a man sexually harasses a woman of equal status, the woman may have problems winning the case. This is a ruling likely to disproportionately affect women—especially because more than 80 percent of sexual-harassment charges are filed by women, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.