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).