High Court to Hear "Cat's Paw" Liability Case

Pat Edgar has never met Stephen Peters. In fact, Edgar, who fired Peters from his post as a salesman at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. (BCI), didn't even work in same state as Peters, let alone know he was black. However, that didn't stop Peters from filing suit against the company alleging racial discrimination as a motivating factor behind his September 2001 dismissal.

The EEOC took Peters' case, arguing that BCI was liable for discrimination because Peter's immediate supervisor, Cesar Grado, harbored racial bias against black employees, which the EEOC said directly influenced Edgar's termination decision. The 10th Circuit agreed.

"One thing that really scares a lot of companies is that the 10th Circuit seems to require an investigation by the HR manager every time there is employee discipline at issue," Presnell says. "In my case [Edgar] had more than 1,000 employees under her and if she were to have to interview and perform a full-blown investigation for every disciplinary action, regardless of how minor, it would stop the process in its tracks."

A Supreme Decision

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