University of Chicago Legal Forum


The Second Circuit’s recent extension of the cat’s paw doctrine to include the discriminatory and retaliatory actions of low-level co-workers without a supervisory role created a circuit split and set the stage for increased Title VII challenges against employers. This Comment argues against the Second Circuit’s decision and contends that the cat’s paw theory of liability, an employment law doctrine where employers may be held liable for Title VII violations based on the discriminatory actions of their employees, should not be extended to the discriminatory actions of low-level co-workers. Although the Supreme Court established employer liability for a supervisor’s discriminatory animus in the Title VII context in Staub v. Proctor Hospital, extending the doctrine to low-level employees will be detrimental to corporations and lead to the inefficient use of resources where employers are forced to mediate employee disputes rather than focus on the business at hand. Extending the cat’s paw doctrine in the current complex employment environment will not only frustrate employers, who will face increased liability, but such an action would also deplete corporate resources that could otherwise be directed towards Title VII’s ultimate purpose—decreasing discrimination in the workplace.

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