University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review

Document Type



Often, decisions regarding employment are made with the input of or based on the observations of more than one person. This presents complications for employment discrimination plaintiffs seeking to prove discriminatory animus resulting in an adverse employment decision for the plaintiff. Specifically, many plaintiffs are left to deal with the unresolved issue of whether they have a claim for employment discrimination when a discriminating non-decision making coworker or direct supervisor supplies incorrect or distorted information to their superiors who have the authority to fire them. This is known as the "cat's paw" theory of liability or "subordinate bias liability."

The United States Supreme Court attempted to resolve this issue in Staub v. Proctor Hospital. Prior to Staub, the circuit courts were split on subordinate bias liability. This article analyzes the various theories adopted by the circuit courts in deciding subordinate bias cases and considers the resulting difficulties. Next, the article analyzes the Supreme Court's Staub decision, and identifies the additional difficulties created by the Court. Ultimately, the article concludes that the Supreme Court adopted none of the standards used by the circuit courts, simultaneously creating a standard that may be difficult for plaintiffs to satisfy.