The Oregon Supreme Court has now ruled that the “cat’s paw” doctrine is a viable theory for use in proving discriminatory or retaliatory motivation in Oregon statutory employment discrimination and retaliation cases.
The theory, which has been widely adopted in state and federal courts, allows a plaintiff to impute the bias of a supervisor who lacks decision-making authority to the employer’s manager and ultimate decision-maker, if the plaintiff can point to evidence that the non-decision-maker influenced or was involved in the adverse employment decision. Put another way, it allows a plaintiff to establish that an allegedly neutral decision maker is acting at the behest or suggestion of a biased supervisor when making an adverse employment decision. Note, however, even if a plaintiff can show the decision maker was acting as a “cat’s paw” for a biased supervisor, to prevail, a plaintiff will still have to show that the the supervisor’s unlawful bias caused the adverse employment action.
The case is Ossanna v. Nike, Inc. Ossanna v. Nike, Inc. (03225305x7AC43)