In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court in Staub v. Proctor Hospital first endorsed the “Cat’s Paw” theory of liability in a USERRA case. Derived from an Aesop Fable, the Court held that an employee termination based on information from a supervisor with discriminatory or retaliatory intent can provide the basis for employer liability even if the biased supervisor did not participate in the adverse employment decision. Following up on this decision, federal courts began applying the theory to Title VII and other federal discrimination laws. Last week’s 2nd Circuit decision in Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., took the “Cat’s Paw” theory one step further when it upheld an employer’s liability under Title VII when the adverse employment decision was influenced by the retaliatory intent of a low level co-worker who had no supervisory responsibilities.

Continue Reading 2nd Circuit “Cat’s Paw” decision highlights importance of employer investigations before termination

The importance of leaving your personal life at home-particularly if it involves a penchant for pornography-is amply highlighted by the Second Circuit’s decision in Patane v. Clark, No. 06-3446 (2nd Cir. Nov. 28, 2007). In Patane, the court upheld a female college secretary’s right to pursue a hostile work environment claim under Title VII and state discrimination laws based on her male supervisor’s pornographic video and website viewing habits. The supervisor allegedly viewed sexually-explicit videotapes for one to two hours every day on his office television, which was visible to his secretary through a glass partition. He also left pornographic videos scattered across his office floor, viewed pornographic websites on his secretary’s work computer, and required her, as a part of her secretarial duties, to open his mail, which included pornographic videotapes that the supervisor had delivered to his office.
Continue Reading Secretary May Pursue Sexual Harassment Suit for Hostile Work Environment Based on Boss’s Video Habit