Cat’s Paw Revisited

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Stalking the string of “cat’s paw” cases after the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Staub v. Proctor Hosp., a former employee recently asserted that his manager’s bias against Hispanics caused the employer to terminate his employment – not because the manager made the decision to discharge the employee, but because the actual decision-maker relied on information from the manager.  The former employee’s attempt to scratch the employer failed, because although the manager brought some of the employee’s misconduct to light – including lying on his resume and a supposedly false expense report – the employer and its Human Resources staff independently investigated the allegations.  According to this court, an employer is NOT liable for discrimination, even if a biased report from a supervisor is part of the chain-of-events, so long as the employer independently determines that, apart from the report, the discharge is entirely justified.  A computer search and an HR investigation may be all it takes to justify a termination.  Of course, it helps, as in this case, if the former employee admits both that he “technically” lied in his interview and on his expense report.   Lobato v. New Mexico, No. 12-2128 (10th Cir. November 5, 2013).


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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