On August 29, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., — F.3d —, No. 15-3239-CV, 2016 WL 4501673 (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2016), holding that an employer may be held liable for a low-level employee’s animus under the cat’s paw theory of liability if the employer’s own negligence allows that animus to result in adverse employment action against another employee.
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A recent case from Ohio highlights the evolution of both “cat’s paw” liability and “gender stereotyping” claims in employment litigation.  In Koren v. The Ohio Bell Telephone Company, No. 1:11-cv-2674 (N.D.Ohio Aug. 14, 2012), plaintiff Jason Koren, then known as Jason Cabot, first worked for Ohio Bell from 2000 to 2006.  He told his co-workers he was gay and had AIDS.   He left his employment on good terms and subsequently married his partner in Massachusetts, taking his husband’s last name of Koren.  Koren was rehired by Ohio Bell as a sales consultant in 2009.   Koren alleged one of his managers refused to recognize his marriage or name change and persisted in calling him Cabot.  Koren also described a number of allegedly discriminatory job actions.  In 2009, Koren’s father died, and he missed nine days of work.  Ohio Bell terminated Koren for excessive absences.  He sued for gender and disability discrimination under Federal and Ohio law.


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Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the “cat’s paw” theory of employment discrimination — that an employer can be liable for the discriminatory animus of an employee who influences, but does not make, an ultimate employment decision — applies to claims brought under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the law that protects individuals called to military service during their private employment.  In a unanimous decision, the Court held that

“if a supervisor performs an act motivated by anti-military animus that is intended by the supervisor to cause an adverse employment action, and if that act is a proximate cause of the ultimate employment action, then the employer is liable under USERRA.”

Staub v. Proctor Hospital, 131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011).


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