A case that could reshape the scope of supervisor liability in workplace discrimination and harassment suits was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. In Vance v. Ball State University, it’ll be decided to what extent an employer can be held liable for discrimination.

Maetta Vance was the only African-American who worked in Ball State University’s Banquet and Catering Department. She filed a complaint in 2006, accusing the school of violating Title VII through the actions of Banquet and Catering Department worker Saundra Davis. According to Vance’s claim, Davis created and fostered a hostile work environment by frequently making discriminatory remarks about her race and ethnicity.

Vance then reported Davis’ actions to the department supervisors and an investigation ensued. The supervisors eventually declined to formally discipline either party and instead asked both of them to attend workplace behavior counseling. The supervisors’ reasoning was that both women provided conflicting accounts on who harassed whom.

Under Title VII, employers aren’t liable for non-supervisors’ discriminatory conduct of the majority non-supervisors so long as they act reasonably enough to prevent discrimination from occurring and fix any issues of discrimination brought to their attention.

Ball State said that they were shielded from Vance’s suit and filed a motion for summary judgment to confirm. The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana and the U.S. Court of Appeals both agreed, stating that Vance didn’t first establish that Davis was her supervisor and the only evidence for Davis being her supervisor is she had the authority to direct Vance’s day-to-day activities. Davis wasn’t required to record Vance’s time like other hourly employees in the department.

Attorney Camille Olson–who chairs the complex discrimination litigation practice of the national employment law firm Seyfarth Shaw–and fellow Seyfarth attorneys Philippe Weiss and Nathan Kipp wrote in their analysis that the Supreme Court’s broad definition of “supervisor” could play a key role in the case’s decision.

“The court’s conclusion as to the proper definition of ‘supervisor’ will lead either to increased or decreased litigation against employers,” the attorneys wrote in an analysis sent to the AmNews. “On one hand, if the court adopts the broader definition of supervisor–that is, an individual who has the authority to direct and oversee employees’ daily work activities–employers will face increased exposure to Title VII claims.

“On the other hand, if the court affirms the 7th Circuit’s narrower definition–that is, supervisors are individuals who have the power to ‘hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline’ employees–employers’ exposure to Title VII litigation will decrease.”