The recent Supreme Court decision in Staub v. Proctor Hospital highlights the liability an employer can face from discrimination claims. The court ruling shows that even when a manager or boss ultimately decides to fire an employee, if a subordinate supervisor influences or discriminates against an employee that leads to an action against the employee overall, the employer may be liable.
Vincent Staub filed a grievance after he was let go as an angiography technician at a Peoria, Ill. hospital as he felt he was let go because of his bosses “hostility toward his military obligations”.
Staub sued saying that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) forbids an employer from denying “employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment based on a person’s membership in or obligation to perform service in a uniformed service and provides that liability is established if the person’s membership is a motivating factor in the employer’s action.”
Both of Staub’s direct supervisors were found to be seeking to discharge him. Evidence was found and inferred that they were displeased by his U.S. Army Reserve duties that mandated he train full time two to three weeks a year and attend drill one weekend a month.
His direct supervisor scheduled extra hours without care to the Reserve requirements and ultimately designed a special “corrective action” that made him stay in his work area even when he was done with patients. When Staub left his boss a voicemail as asked when he was going to leave his desk and did not receive a phone call back, he was found to be in violation of the rule.
Even though he was fired by human resources, the court found that the actions of Staub’s two immediate supervisors plus their annoyance at his military duties supported his claims. Staub’s case has had numerous twists and turns as the first jury awarded him $58,000 in damages, then in a federal appeals court the decision was reversed. The Supreme Court upheld the jury verdict saying that his managers influenced human resources to make an incorrect firing decision.
With numerous military bases in Texas, employers and employees in this state should pay close attention to this case. Human resource and employment managers should make sure actions against employees are truly a result of rule violations, not personal biases. Employees who serve in the military should be aware of their protected rights.
Austin employment attorney and business litigation lawyer Gregory D. Jordan has more than 20 years of experience representing employers and employees with their employment matters. Jordan has a long, successful track record of tenaciously representing his client’s interests as an Austin discrimination attorney and Austin employment attorney.