NJ Discrimination and Retaliation Law – Easier to Prove Under Supreme Court Ruling

By Thomas McKinney

Company decisions on hiring and firing often are made by more than one person.  Many times, a lower-level manager influences the decision of a more senior manager.  In employment discrimination lawsuits, defendants frequently argue that the “ultimate decision-maker” was not motivated by discrimination even if a lower-level manager may have been.  Employees, on the other hand, argue that the lower-level manager’s discrimination infects the entire decision-making process.  Lawyers call it “cat’s paw” liability based on an old fable where a cat used a monkey unwittingly to do his bidding.
In an important decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the cat’s paw theory is a legitimate way to prove discrimination.  See Staub v. Proctor Hospital (March 1, 2011). The Supreme Court’s ruling solidifies this theory of liability for use in all kinds of employment lawsuits such as discrimination, retaliation, and whistle-blowing.  While this theory has been used in New Jersey for some time, the US Supreme Court’s endorsement of it no doubt will increase its use in state and federal employment litigation.

March 5, 2011 – Castronovo & McKinney – Paul Castronovo

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.