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Wrongful Termination Based Upon Biased Manager

Posted by Jamison Mark on May 8, 2014 3:29:00 PM
New Jersey Attorneys

The United States Supreme Court has ruled in Staub v. Proctor Hospital that an employee who is being harassed by a manager, who then influences upper level management's decision to terminate an employee can bind the employer in a wrongful termination action. In Staub, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court, held that the confusing "cat's paw theory of job discrimination" can reach to an employer when a biased supervisor, one with some evidence of animus toward the employee, causes the supervisor's decision to terminate the employee. The court reasoned that while the supervisor terminated the employee, it was based upon the harassment and animus of the lower manager's personal animus against the employee.

Vincent Staub worked as an angiography technician for Proctor Hospital, when he was fired. Staub and Proctor hotly dispute the facts surrounding the firing.

While employed by Proctor, Staub was a member of the United States Army Reserve, which required him to attend drill one weekend per month and to train full time for two to three weeks a year. Both Janice Mulally, Staub's immediate supervisor, and Michael Korenchuk, Mulally's supervisor, were hostile to Staub's military obligations. Mulally scheduled Staub for additional shifts without notice so that he would " 'pa[y] back the department for everyone else having to bend over backwards to cover [his] schedule for the Reserves.' Mulally also informed Staub's co-worker, Leslie Sweborg, that Staub's " 'military duty had been a strain on th[e] department,' " and asked Sweborg to help her " 'get rid of him.' " Korenchuk referred to Staub's military obligations as " 'a b[u]nch of smoking and joking and [a] waste of taxpayers['] money.' Korenchuk was also aware that Mulally was "out to get" Staub. In retaliation of his reserve service, Mulally issued Staub several disciplinary notices.

If it was not hostile enough, later, Angie Day, Staub's co-worker, complained to Linda Buck, Proctor's vice president of human resources, and Garrett McGowan, Proctor's chief operating officer, about Staub's frequent unavailability and abruptness. McGowan directed Korenchuk and Buck to create a plan that would solve Staub's " 'availability' problems." But three weeks later, before they had time to do so, Korenchuk informed Buck that Staub had left his desk without informing a supervisor, in violation of the prior disciplinary notice. Staub contends this accusation were false and fabricated to retaliate against him, and objected to the discipline. Thereafter, Linda Buck, who relied upon Korenchuk's accusation and Staub's personnel file --- including the fabricated disciplinary actions --- decided to fire him. The termination notice stated that Staub had ignored the directive issued in prior disciplinary notices.

Staub sued Proctor under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, 38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq., (USERRA) claiming that his discharge was motivated by hostility to his obligations as a military reservist. Staub's contention was not that Buck had any hostility toward him, but that Mulally and Korenchuk did, and that such actions influenced Buck's decision to terminate his employment. At trial, a jury found for Staub awarding him $57,640 in damages. Proctor appealed, wherein the Court overturned the jury's verdict. The case then went up on Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

The opinion can be read in full at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/09-400.ZO.html

If you feel that you have been terminated due to the illegal actions of your manager, effecting the company's decision to terminate you, you may have a valid claim of wrongful termination against your employer. If you also believe that your USERRA rights have been violated, please call Mark Law Firm, and speak to a Wrongful Termination lawyer about your case by either going to the " contact us" page, or call 908-626-1001 or 973-440-2311.

Topics: Wrongful Termination