Feb. 12, 2016 Declawing the Cat's Paw Doctrine In Discrimination Cases

by Joanne Alnajjar Buser

Law360, New York (February 12, 2016, 11:16 AM ET) -- Five years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Staub v. Proctor Hospital,[1] a decision that endorsed the cat’s paw doctrine in employment discrimination cases. In the Staub decision, the court held an employer may be liable for a subordinate supervisor’s bias if the plaintiff can prove the biased supervisor intended to cause a neutral decision maker to take an adverse action against the plaintiff, and the supervisor’s action proximately caused the ultimate adverse action. In other words, even if an organization uses a neutral representative outside the chain of command to approve an adverse action against an employee, that decision may still be considered unlawful under the cat’s paw doctrine if the decision maker merely “rubber-stamped” the supervisor’s recommendation.

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