Cat’s Paw Theory Did Not Help Depressed Employee

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt

A heating and air technician, who suffered from depression, advised one of the company owners of this fact in conjunction with a discussion regarding a customer complaint filed against the  tech.  The owner never made any comments to anyone regarding the depression or discussed it as an issue.  Shortly after the conversation, the owner did instruct his shop manager to cut overhead expenses, which resulted, in among other changes, the plaintiff being fired (along with four other people in the course of a few months).  The plaintiff tried to argue that the owner’s instruction to the shop manager to cut expenses was motivated by his disability.  The trial court granted summary judgment for the employer and stated that there was no evidence that the shop manager knew of the disability.  Further, the court held, it was too speculative to find that the owner’s instruction to cut expenses was motivated by hostility toward the disability and that he also had the specific intent to see him fired.  Auer v. Allied Air Conditioning & Heating Corp., No. 10-05285 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 23, 2012).

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