Cat's paw case leaves imprint on proper employee termination steps

3rd Circuit ruling suggests steps employers should take when supervisors who recommend adverse employment actions are suspected of bias

Following the Supreme Court’s March decision in Staub v . Proctor Hospital validating the cat’s paw theory of discrimination, employment lawyers have been watching for the circuits to define guidelines for defense of such a claim.

The cat’s paw theory contends that an employee has a valid discrimination claim, even if the person who makes the negative employment decision is not biased, if the decision maker is influenced by someone else who is biased (see “Singed Paws”).

Unclear Record

A district court jury found that Carnation’s termination was an act of retaliation for his protests and for raising a complaint of discrimination. The employer sought judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that an independent decision to terminate the employee was made by the police commissioner based on the recommendation of the PBI, not the biased supervisor. The district court denied the city’s motion for judgment.

Michael Kozubek

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