Published: Nov 26, 2012 1:01 PM EST
Updated: Nov 27, 2012 7:31 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - When does your coworker also count as your supervisor? The Supreme Court may soon draw a legal line separating colleagues from managers, at least when it comes to harassment claims.

At issue Monday was a federal court split on whether to be considered a supervisor, a person must be able to hire and fire people.

That's what the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said while hearing a complaint from a Ball State University caterer, who says she was racially harassed. Maetta Vance says her tormentor was a supervisor, making the university liable. But the lower courts said that since the woman could not fire Vance, she was only a co-worker, and threw out the case.

Justices will announce whether they think that was the right decision sometime next year.