Section 1981, which prohibits race discrimination and retaliation in contractual relationships, is a law that provides for individual liability. The 7th Circuit recently considered for the first time whether an employee can be individually liable under a “cat’s paw” theory of retaliation under Section 1981.
The cat’s paw theory of liability is named after an ancient fable in which a monkey convinces a cat to pull chestnuts out of a fire and then gobbles them up without leaving any for the cat. It refers to a biased supervisor who discriminates against an employee based on a protected characteristic and influences an unbiased decision-maker to fire the employee under legitimate pretenses.
In Smith v. Bray (No. 11-1935, 7th Cir., 2012), the 7th Circuit held that an employee could sue an HR manager individually for retaliating against him by influencing the decision to fire him.
Race, retaliation, litigation
Darrel Smith ...(register to read more)