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Staub v. Proctor Hospital
What’s at stake?
Protecting employees from illegal workplace discrimination.
Whether an employee may be liable for a supervisor’s illegal discrimination when the supervisor caused or influenced the adverse employment decision but was not the ultimate decision maker.
March 1, 2011
8-0 in favor of Staub. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion; Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Kagan recused.
What the court held:
In an opinion written by Justice Scalia reversing the Seventh Circuit, the Supreme Court held that an employer can be liable for a supervisor’s illegal discrimination even if the supervisor is not the ultimate decision maker who orders an adverse employment action, as long as the supervisor is motivated by discrimination that he or she intended to result in an adverse employment action and the supervisor’s conduct is the proximate cause of that action. This case pertains to unlawful discrimination against a member of the military reserves, but would also apply in gender, race, and other discrimination cases brought under Title VII.
Plaintiff Vincent Staub was a member of the United States Army Reserve who was fired from his job as an angiography technician with Proctor Hospital. Staub claimed that his supervisors were hostile to his military service because they believed that it interfered with his hospital responsibilities. Discrimination in employment against members of the military is illegal under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Staub argued that his supervisors manufactured disciplinary claims against him in order to find a pretext to fire him. A Proctor Hospital staffer in human resources, who did not have any discriminatory animus toward Staub’s military service, fired Staub in part because of the supervisors’ disciplinary actions against him.
The Court rejected the hospital’s claim that an employer can escape liability for the supervisors’ discrimination when the ultimate decision maker -- in this case the human resources staffer -- has no discriminatory intent. Plaintiff still must prove that his supervisors discriminated against him because of his military service and intended the disciplinary actions to result in his firing, and that the disciplinary actions were the proximate cause of his firing. But the company cannot insulate itself merely by having someone else issue termination papers.
Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court extends bias protection
- Whistleblower’s Protection Blog: Supreme Court hears argument on employer liability in Staub v. Proctor Hospital
- Brief for Petitioner Vincent E. Staub
- Brief for Respondent Proctor Hospital
- Reply Brief for Petitioner Vincent E. Staub
- Brief for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations in Support of Petitioner
- Motion for Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief and Brief for the American Association of Justice in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Reserve Officers Association of America in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the United States of America in Support of Petitioner
- Brief for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, AARP, and Equal Justice Society in Support of Petitioner
- Motion for Leave to File Brief Out of Time and Brief Amicus Curiae for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America in Support of Respondent
- Motion for Leave to File Brief Out of Time and Brief Amicus Curiae for the Equal Employment Advisory Council in Support of Respondent
- Brief for the National Federation of Independent Business, Small Business Legal Center in Support of Respondent
- Brief for the National School Boards Association in Support of Respondent