Race Discrimination Lawsuit Allowed Under Cat’s Paw Theory

An African American was allowed to continue her race discrimination lawsuit, which also included claims of harassment and retaliation based on a legal theory called “cat’s paw”. The cat’s paw theory includes those situations where a co-worker, supervisor or other employee influences or a boss to fire someone or take other negative employment actions against a worker. This may be something like making negative statements on their personnel files or giving bad employment reviews. When these actions are racially motivated and influence an employer to take negative action, it may be possible to bring a racial discrimination case against the company based on the “cat’s paw theory.” This differs from traditional race discrimination cases where an employer takes discriminatory actions directly against employees.

If you have questions about race discrimination or believe that you have been subjected to discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on your race, it’s important to consult with an experienced Atlanta race discrimination lawyer right away.

In King v. Volunteers of Am., Sonja D. King brought a race discrimination case under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Right Act against a group home in Alabama asserting that her supervisor – Teresa Stephenson – acted with bias in manipulating the chief executive officer – Victor Tucker – to fire her.

Here, King presented evidence that Stephenson engaged in the following actions designed to get King fired. These included:

• Making outrageous, daily statements derogating African-American employees such as:
– “Black people have a nasty attitude; they’re nasty; they’re ignorant”
– She was not “going to hire any black dudes here because they are drug dealers and might damage the clients”
– “Old black women are good for nothing”
• Telling another employee that she would engineer King’s discharge;
• Making up events to get King reprimanded;
• Failing to properly train and supervise African American employees, and forcing black workers-including King-to write reports falsely accusing their black colleagues of misconduct;
• Telling others that the Tucker would “rubber-stamp” her decisions and recommendations.

Although the lower court dismissed the charges, the appeals court reversed noting the all of the written reprimands were signed by the Stephenson, including some only her. Also in the letter firing King, the CEO cited these reprimands as the motivating factor behind the termination.

This case is particularly disturbing given the level of discrimination. The lawsuit also alleges that just days after King complained to the CEO about Stephenson’s actions, she began receiving reprimands based on bogus information. Employees then informed her that Stephenson had forced them to come up with complaints against her. Stephenson subsequently warned employees during a staff meeting that they better not make complaints if they want to keep their jobs. Stephenson also told others she was going to “get King back” for complaining about her.

It is unfortunate that this level of discrimination continues to exist in the work place. Laws have been created to protect workers from being treated this way. We can help. Please contact the top Georgia race discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP if you suffer any type of harassment, bias or discrimination based on your race for an immediate case evaluation.