The United States Supreme Court recently accepted certiorari in Staub v. Proctor Hospital (7th Cir. 2009), a case dealing with the “cat’s paw” theory of employer liability. The “cat’s paw” theory provides that the discriminatory animus of a non-decisionmaker can be imputed to the decisionmaker, if the non-decisionmaker (a) has singular influence over the decisionmaker, and (b) uses that influence to cause an adverse employment action.
In Staub, the Plaintiff sued his former employer, alleging his was fired in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”). He prevailed at trial by using the “cat’s paw” theory of liability.
On appeal to the Seventh Circuit, the issue was whether the trial court could allow the Plaintiff to present evidence of nondecisionmaker animus – in support of his “cat’s paw” theory of liability – without first determining whether a reasonable jury could find “singular influence” on the evidence to be presented. The appellate court ruled that the trial court failed to make this prior determination, and therefore erred by admitting the evidence of nondecision maker animus.
The Supreme Court has now accepted certiorari in this case and should be hearing the matter in the near future.