In a significant
employment discrimination decision, the U.S Supreme Court has just ruled that an Army Reservist
who had a civilian job as a hospital technician could bring a lawsuit for
employment bias and discrimination against him due to his commitment to the military.
In addition to being a positive result for the man who brought the lawsuit,
this case is important because of the theory the court relied on to find
that an employer may be liable for discrimination. Under what is called
“cat’s paw” liability, the court determined that an
employee may be able to hold an employer liable where the illegal bias
of a supervisor who does not have the authority to make an ultimate employment
decision – such as hiring or firing – serves as a “motivating
factor” in the decision making process.
Here, an unbiased human resources manager fired the technician based on
negative performance reviews. But, the technician relied on the “cat’s
paw” theory to argue that his firing was discriminatory because
the performance reviews were illegally biased. The technician claimed
that his two immediate supervisors were anti-military and wrote negative
comments about him in their reviews. Discrimination against those serving
in the military is a violation of the
Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act . The human resources manager then took these findings at face value, and
fired the man.
The Supreme Court determined that even though the human resource manager
may not be biased, the fact that her decision was tainted by improperly
motivated comments was enough to bring a claim of discrimination against
the hospital. Also, even if the human resource manager had conducted an
independent investigation, where a discriminatory bias is an influence
in a negative employment decision, an employer may be held liable for
For more information, or if you believe you have been the victim of illegal
discrimination at work, please contact the
Atlanta employment lawyers at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC. Our Georgia employment rights attorneys
are dedicated to protecting workers from workplace discrimination.