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Furline v. Howard University, D.C. Circ., No. 04-cv-1029 and 04-cv-1114, July 24, 2008

Articles Discussing Case:

Employer Can Avoid Liability by Conducting Independent Investigation of Allegations Made by Biased Supervisor Against Minority Subordinate.

Ogletree Deakins • August 01, 2008
Under anti-discrimination statutes, an employee can bring a retaliation claim under a theory of liability referred to as a “subordinate bias” theory – also referred to as the “cat’s paw” theory” - in which the employee can claim that an adverse action ostensibly brought by a high-level company decision-maker was, in actuality, based upon the biased recommendation of a lower level manager or supervisor. The Supreme Court implicitly approved this rationale in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products in 2000, a case in which a company president followed a recommendation of the director of manufacturing (who, coincidentally, was also her husband) to discharge an employee for falsifying company payroll records. Because evidence existed to show that the director of manufacturing had generated misleading data to justify the termination, and that he was the “actual” decision-maker, the company was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law against the employee.