Today, in Staub v. Proctor Hospital, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that an employer may be liable under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) when the discriminatory actions of an employee who doesn’t make employment decisions influence the employment decisionmaker. More specifically, the Court noted, “if a supervisor performs an act motivated by antimilitary 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.”
In Staub, Vincent Staub, a member of the military reserves, sued his employer after his employment was terminated, alleging he was a victim of antimilitary discrimination in violation of USERRA. Staub based his claim on his supervisors’ alleged antimilitary bias, asserting they influenced the manager who fired him, even though the manager claimed he didn’t take such bias into account. In making his claim, Staub used the theory of cat’s-paw liability, which basically means one person has manipulated another. In an employment law context and specifically in this case, Staub used cat’s-paw liability to claim the employer was liable because his biased supervisors convinced the decision-making manager to take the adverse employment action (discharge) even though the decisionmaker may not have had any bias.