Employment Case Alert - March 04, 2011

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The United States Supreme Court held that an employer may be liable for the discriminatory motives of a supervisor who influences, but does not make the ultimate employment decision. The Court’s ruling will impact employment discrimination claims where multiple individuals are claimed to have made, caused, or influenced the ultimate employment decision. Staub v. Proctor Hospital (S.Ct. 3.1.11).

Vincent Staub worked in the Diagnostic Imaging Department for Proctor Hospital and was a member of the United States Army Reserves. Staub’s immediate supervisor Janice Mulally and her supervisor Michael Korenchuk allegedly resented and opposed Staub’s Army Reserve training requirements. These supervisors allegedly openly opposed his reservist duties and intentionally scheduled him to work on weekends on which he had reservist duties. Shortly after Staub received an order to report for reservist duties, Supervisor Mulally gave him a written warning for disregarding his job duties. One of the requirements of that warning was to report his whereabouts to Korenchuk or Mulally at all times. One day when Staub was leaving for lunch he looked for Korenchuk to tell him he was taking his lunch break. Korenchuk was not in his office so he left him a voice mail message. Upon his return from lunch Korenchuk accused him of failing to report his whereabouts as required by the written warning. He escorted Staub to the Vice President of Human Resources, Linda Buck, who reviewed his personnel file, saw the written warning, and spoke with Korenchuk who informed her that Staub had failed to report his whereabouts, but did not disclose that he had left a voice mail message for Korenchuk. Based on her review of the personnel file and discussion with Korenchuk, the Vice President of Human Resources made the decision to terminate Staub.

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Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley on:

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