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Employment – retaliation — cat’s paw theory

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Employment – retaliation — cat’s paw theory

Where an employee was demoted based on reports prepared by a supervisor with animus towards him, the jury could find that the demotion was retaliatory, even though the supervisor did not participate in the decision to demote him.

“Hicks presented sufficient evidence at trial for the jury to find that the FPD officials based their decision to offer Hicks the demotion on the twenty-eight disciplinary action forms he received either directly from Thompson or with Thompson’s approval. While Thompson himself did not participate in the hearing at which Hicks was offered the demotion, Thompson submitted the disciplinary action forms to Sanchez-Bass. Her testimony at trial indicated that she relied on the forms when offering Hicks the choice between accepting the demotion or facing further disciplinary action, including termination. The jury found that Thompson had a retaliatory animus against Hicks, and since Sanchez-Bass and the other FPD officials who demoted Hicks were ‘dependent on another employee to supply the information on which to base’ their decision, his animus can be imputed to the FPD under the ‘cat’s paw’ theory. Brewer, 479 F.3d at 918. Therefore, Hicks put forth sufficient evidence to support the jury’s decision on the retaliation claim.”


11-1124 Hicks v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chang, J., Manion, J.

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