WHAT IF A CO-WORKER GETS YOU FIRED?
Aside from hopefully momentary thoughts of physical revenge in the extreme, the average person may not realize that a childhood fable about a cat and chestnuts figures prominently in the answer. Have you heard of “Cat’s Paw” cases? We hope so because we have written about them before, e.g., “Another ‘Cat’s Paw’ Discrimination Victory.” But if you are new to our group of readers or have the memory retention problems like we have, then a brand new case out of the Court of Appeals is a great refresher and a breath of fresh air that expands an employee’s protection under the “Cat’s Paw” theory.
The law firm of Ogletree Deakins tells it better than we can, but the core of it is that if a non-supervisory co-worker tells management something that gets you fired and that was motivated by illegal bias based on any of the protected civil rights classes, e.g., race, gender, age, national origin, sexual harassment, etc. then the employee can file a discrimination charge to hopefully get reinstated with back pay, interest, attorney fees, compensatory damages, and ideally the termination of the hater that caused the problem. Up to now it has been unclear whether the Cat’s Paw protection extends to a co-worker’s illegal motives or is limited to just supervisory bias. This new case gives employees some pretty firm ground on which to build case. Although the firm’s attached story entitled, “The Cat is Out of the Bag” is about a termination there is no reason the Cat’s Paw theory cannot be used if the co-worker’s illegally motivated actions result in a lower evaluation, denied promotion, significant reassignment, or any substantial personnel action.