Managers Can be Manipulated and Subsequently Burned: Know the Fable of the Monkey and the Cat's Paw

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A recent case from the United States Supreme Court stands as a warning: know why the employee is being fired. If the company fires an employee based on a supervisor's recommendation, and the supervisor was motivated by an illegal reason, the company may be liable for illegal discrimination.

There is a fable about a monkey who was sitting with a cat. The monkey wanted some chestnuts that were roasting in the fire. He flattered the cat, saying "you are much better at this sort of thing than I am, get the chestnuts out of the fire and we will split them up." The cat clawed several hot chestnuts out of the fire, burning her paws. The monkey quickly ate all the chestnuts and the cat was left with just burned paws.

A supervisor or manager might manipulate another manager to get rid of an employee, just as the monkey manipulated the cat to retrieve the hot chestnuts. The recent U.S. Supreme Court case of Staub v. Proctor Hospital is one such example. Staub was an employee at the hospital and a member of the Army Reserve. His supervisors despised needing to adjust work schedules to accommodate his Army Reserve Weekend Drill and Annual Training schedules. They said his weekend of "smoking and joking" was "a waste of taxpayer money" and told other employees that they wanted to get rid of Staub. The supervisors allegedly created a policy that said employees couldn't leave their desks without first reporting to the supervisor.

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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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