Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Supervisor Definition:

An employee with limited management discretion or responsibilities.

Related Terms: Straw Boss, Employee

The importance of this term in law is that supervisors straddle the thin line between employees and management for the purposes of inclusion or exclusion from collective bargaining units as they are often taken to be representatives of managements, albeit usually on, or closer to the front line at the place of employment.

In the United States, the National Labor Relations Act (United States Code, Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter 2) defines a supervisor as follows, at §2(11):

"The term supervisor means any individual having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action, if in connection with the foregoing the exercise of such authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment."

Justice John Hall of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, in Barton Insurance v Irwin, wrote this of the respondent Ms Marion Irwin (¶4):

"Although at times she was referred to in the evidence as a manager, I would have thought she might be more correctly described as an office administrator or supervisor. For instance, she did not have the power to hire and fire, she had never been a corporate officer or director or shareholder of the appellant or the predecessor company and she required the approval of the regional administrator for any significant expenditure or decisions related to the business."

In United Steelworkers of America v Cominco Ltd., the Canada Labour Relations Board used these words, at ¶22:

"[A] supervisor ... directs the work of others, corrects and reprimands where necessary, allocates work among men and equipment, evaluates or assesses new and longstanding employees, authorizes overtime when necessary, calls in manpower when needed, trains others, receives training to supervise, selects persons for advancement, authorizes repairs, can halt production when problems arise, schedules holidays and vacations, verifies time worked, authorizes shift changes for individuals, and requisitions supplies when needed does not create the conflict or potential conflict that disentitles him to the freedom to associate. The loyalty and integrity of such a person is not altered by union membership or representation. We do not subscribe to a view that says an employee will become dishonest or abuse responsibility because he is represented by a union. We do not refer to membership because it is not necessary. A person may be a union member whether represented by a union or not. The Canada Labour Code does not restrict union membership to employees it only governs union representation."

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