Sean Ratliff


This Comment addresses the extent to which judges should be allowed to grant summary judgment for employers who conduct "independent investigations" in cat's paw employment cases. A cat's paw employment case is one in which an employee attempts to hold an employer liable for an adverse action based upon the conduct of a biased supervisor. The supervisor, who lacks decision-making authority, may have influenced or participated in the decision to take the adverse employment action. Currently, the circuits split over the requisite level of influence that the supervisor must have over the ultimate decisionmaker in order to impute liability. This Comment explores that split and summarizes the various standards used by the circuits. More importantly, this Comment looks at the role that independent investigations play in the courts' analyses. Most circuits will absolve an employer of liability where the employer conducts an independent investigation before taking an adverse action. However, the circuits split as to whether the independence of an investigation is a question of law or fact. This Comment asserts that the question should be one of fact and that judges should be prohibited from granting summary judgment based on the independent investigation defense.