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Employers May Be on the Hook Under the Cat's Paw Theory of Liability

This report relates to 1 case(s)

Author: Vonde Smith, Law Offices of Vonde M. Smith, PC

In Staub v. Proctor Hospital, +131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011), the United States Supreme Court considered whether an employer can be held liable for employment discrimination based upon the discriminatory animus of a lower level manager or supervisor who influenced, but did not make the final employment decision. This is known as the cat's paw theory of employer liability.

Generally, an employer is liable for discrimination or retaliation if unlawful bias is a motivating factor in an adverse action taken against an employee. Thus, under a mixed motives theory of liability, a plaintiff can establish discrimination by showing that an employer took an adverse employment action based, in whole or in part, upon the plaintiff's membership in a protected class.