Is a “Lead” the Same as a “Supervisor”? sample essay

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The issue of whether a lead employee must be considered a supervisor is presented in the case of Almanza v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , No. 06-0553 (E. D. Cal. , Aug. 7, 2007). In this case, the plaintiff sued her employer, Wal-Mart because she was sexually harassed by her lead, whom she considered to be her supervisor. For this reason, she insisted that she was entitled to and was denied protection by her employer. The employer, however, did not agree that a lead was the same as a supervisor. This lead did not have autonomy to make decisions regarding employees and did not have the kind of authority normally granted to a supervisor.

The distinction was important because if, in fact, the lead was a supervisor, the employee was entitled to sue Wal-Mart on her sexual harassment claims. The plaintiff worked for Wal-Mart as an “unloader” – she pulled stock off of trucks and placed it on the sales floor. The lead unloader was responsible for managing the other unloaders, from assigning jobs to conducting performance evaluations to managing breaks and training. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment against the employer, claiming that the lead unloader sexually harassed her; and, as a supervisor, the employer should be held responsible.

The employer tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the lead unloader was not, in fact, a supervisor and therefore the employer could not be held liable for any sexual harassment. The court rejected this motion, instead seeking further clarification on whether or not the lead could be considered a supervisor: under the law, if the lead was not a supervisor, the employer could only be held liable if the matter had been brought to the attention of a superior and was ignored. If the lead met the supervisor criteria, then the employer would be accountable regardless.

Under the FEHA, a supervisor is defined as an individual with authority on behalf of an employer to “hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees” or to direct employees, resolve employee grievances, or to recommend such action, provided that the employee’s exercise of authority “requires the use of independent judgment. ” (2008) Both parties conceded that the lead unloader did not have the authority to make human resources decisions about employees. The dissention involved the other part of the lead’s job, assigning tasks to other employees.

The employer insisted that the lead unloader did not exercise any autonomy in assigning tasks; rather, the instructions were given to the lead and the lead passed them on to the other unloaders. The employee continued to argue that the lead was a supervisor based on the fact that he assigned work, determined overtime, scheduled breaks and time off, and signed performance assessments. While the employer insisted the lead’s signature was routine and carried no weight whatsoever, the plaintiff provided evidence to the contrary through the testimony of a manager who agreed that the lead’s opinion about the plaintiff carried considerable weight.

For this reason, summary judgment was denied to the employer. It is crucial for employers to ascertain which employees meet the qualifications to be a supervisor and which do not. This is because different states have varying laws regarding the rights and responsibilities of a supervisor. In addition, employees who work under the protection of a union should be aware that the lead, if he or she is not a supervisor, is required to align with them on union issues. When an employee begins a new job, he or she is presented with required tasks, rules, and guidance as to whom to report every day.

The employee in question clearly saw her lead unloader as a supervisor. She reported to him on a daily basis; both sides agreed that the lead was responsible for ensuring that the deliveries were unloaded with speed and accuracy. This implies that the lead would be in charge of speaking to the other unloaders if they worked too slowly or did not follow procedures. The lead would ask the other unloaders to find empty pallets and guided which merchandise was to be placed on which store shelves. Once again, this type of leadership is indicative of a supervisor rather than a fellow employee.

Employees do not commonly give each other instructions or orders. Instead, they take order from a common supervisor. Just because an employee is not given an official supervisory title, a salary, and a wardrobe upgrade does not mean that he or she is not acting as an administrator. In my opinion, the key to deciding the case is how the employees see the lead unloader. Because the employees report to the lead for instructions and performance evaluations, then the lead must be considered to be a supervisor.

This is why the sexual harassment case is so serious – the lead unloader was not only the plaintiff’s co-worker and the source of the harassment, but he had the power to decide her schedule, assignments, whether or not she can take a meal break, and to determine her continued employment. The plaintiff had no choice but to view the lead unloader as a supervisor, for he held her future at Wal-Mart in his hands. Such a conflict of interest should have been anticipated and dealt with on a corporate level. It is unrealistic to expect co-workers to work like equals but to report to one of their own.

In addition, the lead is working as a supervisor but not being paid as one, which might cause him to act out against his co-workers. The most important part of the case, from an employee’s point of view, is that the lead was involved in preparing performance evaluations and the signature on the evaluation contributed to employment decision by higher-ups. When the employee was sexually harassed by the lead (there was no question of the harassment, only the employer’s liability in the matter), this led to a conflict of interest.

The employee would automatically report to the lead for problems arising with her co-workers. Because the problem in question was with the lead, she had to go over his head in order to report the problem. In the meantime, she would have been concerned that her job performance would be denigrated in light of the accusations. After all, if she was due for a performance evaluation, she would have good reason to be worried that the lead would assess her job performance from a biased perspective. Therefore, her appraisal that the lead was a supervisor was completely valid under the circumstances.

The employer did not consider the lead to be a supervisor because he was not a salaried part of the management team. A supervisor generally does just that – supervises – while the other employees do the actual work. In this case, the lead directed his co-workers to perform certain tasks and was responsible for ensuring that the job was completed to the employer’s satisfaction while doing the job himself. In addition, this means that the lead would be dressed similarly to the other unloaders.

An employee who unloads delivery trucks and assists in moving the merchandise to the shelves cannot be in the same league as managers who wear suits and tackle different employee and customer concerns. Regardless of the lead’s assistance in managing the unloading team, the lead has no influence with management – at least according to the employer.

Works Cited:

(2008). Almanza vs wal-mart stores, inc.. Retrieved October 30, 2008, from Employment Law Information Network Web site: http://www. elinfonet. com/casearticles/1702