Under what’s called the Cat’s Paw Theory, employers can’t defend themselves against employment discrimination claims by saying they didn’t know a supervisor was biased.
The theory was first introduced in Shager v. Upjohn, a 1990 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision. There, Judge Richard Posner used an old fable, The Monkey and the Cat, to describe situations in which a corporate decision-maker innocently makes an adverse employment decision based on a lower-level employee’s discriminatory recommendation.
In the fable, a cunning monkey persuades a cat by flattery to retrieve chestnuts from a fire. The cat singes its paws, and the monkey takes off with the chestnuts, leaving the cat with nothing.
The original cat’s paw
Ralph Shager was hired as a sales rep when he was 50 years old. He reported to district manager John Lehnst. Lehnst actively recruited and hired a 29-year-old sales rep with no experience. He divided the te...(register to read more)