Tenth Circuit rejects Cat’s Paw argument holding that review of termination decision by an independent decisionmaker breaks causal link on retaliation claim
In Parker v. United AirLines, Inc., the Tenth Circuit rejected the plaintiff’s Cat’s Paw argument holding that the review of her termination by an independent decisionmaker broke any causal link on her claim of retaliation.
Retaliation entails a causal link between an employee’s use of FMLA leave and the firing. That causal link is broken when an independent decisionmaker conducts her own investigation and decides to fire the employee.
The plaintiff, who had been on FMLA, argued that her use of FMLA leave “sparked retaliation from her supervisor” who, when the opportunity allegedly presented itself, recommended her discharge and continued to do so even when she appealed her decision to a higher level of management. She argued that her supervisor’s alleged contributions to the process constituted proof in her favor under the so-called Cat’s Paw theory. “That theory imputes a supervisor’s motive to an employer if the motive influenced the employer’s decision.” The Tenth Circuit rejected that argument.
(The Cat’s Paw theory) doesn’t apply when independent decisionmakers “conduct their own investigations without relying on biased subordinates.”