Category Archives: Evidence issues

US Supreme Court Rules for Employee on “Cat’s Paw” Theory

The Unit­ed States Supreme Court recent­ly unan­i­mous­ly issued a major vic­to­ry for employ­ees under “USERRA”, the Uni­formed Ser­vices Employ­ment and Reem­ploy­ment Rights Act of 1994, 38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq., on the “cat’s paw” the­o­ry in employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion claims. The deci­sion was in Staub v. Proc­tor Hos­pi­tal, — U.S. — (March 1, 2011) (opin­ion at Google Schol­ar). Jus­tice Scalia wrote the opin­ion for the unan­i­mous court. Jus­tice Ali­to wrote an opin­ion con­cur­ring in the judg­ment, which Jus­tice Thomas joined. Jus­tice Kagan did not par­tic­i­pate in the deci­sion.

What is the “Cat’s Paw” Sce­nario?

Drew's kitty-cat, HannaSo, what the heck is the “cat’s paw” the­o­ry? Does it explain why my cat, pic­tured at the left, is star­ing so intent­ly at you?

First, to define “cat’s paw” in a non-legal con­text, the Webster’s Online dic­tio­nary defines a “cat’s paw” as: “A per­son used by anoth­er to gain an end.” The term aris­es out of a fable in which a a shrewd mon­key tricks a cat into pulling roast­ing chest­nuts out of a fire—the cat gets its paw burned, and the mon­key gets the chest­nuts and scam­pers away unhurt.

Con­tin­ue read­ing US Supreme Court Rules for Employ­ee on “Cat’s Paw” The­o­ry

Cleveland jury awards $900,000 against hospital in age discrimination case

Ellen Simon, an attor­ney in Cleve­land who authors the excel­lent blog, Ellen Simon’s Employ­ee Rights Post, recent­ly tried an age dis­crim­i­na­tion claim for plain­tiff Glo­ria Parks (a phle­botomist) against Cleveland’s Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tals Case Med­ical Cen­ter.

Ms. Parks had worked for the hos­pi­tal for 30 years when she was fired over a med­ical mis­take involv­ing her­self and anoth­er much younger employ­ee. The hos­pi­tal fired Ms. Parks, but not the much younger employ­ee.

The jury returned a ver­dict in favor of the plain­tiff (Ms. Parks) for $450,000 for her eco­nom­ic loss and $450,000 for “oth­er com­pen­sato­ry dam­ages”, accord­ing to Ms. Simon’s blog arti­cle. Based on the lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion I have so far, it looks like the “oth­er com­pen­sato­ry dam­ages” was an award for emo­tion­al dis­tress, The jury did not award puni­tive dam­ages.

So the ver­dict totals $900,000, and Ms. Simon will file a request for attor­neys’ fees’ fees and expens­es. While it is not clear from the arti­cle so far, I sus­pect the case was assert­ed for age dis­crim­i­na­tion under Ohio’s Fair Employ­ment Prac­tices Act (and not the fed­er­al ADEA).

Con­tin­ue read­ing Cleve­land jury awards $900,000 against hos­pi­tal in age dis­crim­i­na­tion case

US Supreme Court broadens scope of permissible evidence for proving discrimination; Sprint/United Management v. Mendelsohn; 2/26/08

US Supreme Court Feb­ru­ary 26, 2008: The Unit­ed States Supreme Court hand­ed down its opin­ion in Sprint/United Man­age­ment Co. v. Mendel­sohn, 128 S. Ct. 1140 (2008) (Find­Law site opin­ion). The issue in this fed­er­al age dis­crim­i­na­tion case (ADEA) was whether the plain­tiff could present evi­dence to the jury about oth­er alleged old­er dis­crim­i­na­tion vic­tims, where the deci­sion made to ter­mi­nate the oth­er indi­vid­u­als was not made by the same deci­sion-mak­er that ter­mi­nat­ed the plain­tiff.

The employ­er (Sprint) con­tend­ed that evi­dence of oth­er alleged age dis­crim­i­na­tion vic­tims was not admis­si­ble where the deci­sion-mak­ers for those oth­er vic­tims were dif­fer­ent from the deci­sion-mak­ers who took action against the plain­tiff.

The Supreme Court reject­ed the employer’s argu­ment and said that the evi­dence of oth­er vic­tims might be admis­si­ble, even if dif­fer­ent deci­sion-mak­ers were involved. The tri­al court should con­duct a “bal­anc­ing test” for admis­si­bil­i­ty of dis­crim­i­na­tion against oth­er employ­ees by dif­fer­ent super­vi­sors, where the rel­e­vance of the oth­er employ­ees’ sit­u­a­tion is bal­anced against unfair prej­u­dice to the employ­er.