Saturday, October 29, 2005

On the 2004 Annual Report of the EEOC Office of General Counsel

Via this post, I've been reading this EEOC report.

Regarding Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Management, Inc., 354 F.3d 277 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc), the report says:

The plaintiff, a 57-year-old female aircraft sheet metal mechanic, filed this action under Title VII and the ADEA alleging that she was discriminatorily discharged because her supervisors relied on the reports of work infractions submitted by a biased safety inspector. In an en banc decision, a divided Fourth Circuit rejected the approach urged by EEOC as amicus curiae and held that the discriminatory motives of a subordinate cannot be imputed to an employer unless the evidence demonstrates that the formal decisionmaker essentially "rubber-stamped" a decision, report, or recommendation of the biased subordinate. The majority conceded that an inquiry into discriminatory motives must often go beyond the actions of the formal decisionmaker, recognizing that otherwise employers could "insulate themselves from liability simply by hiding behind the blind approvals, albeit non-biased, of formal decisionmakers." But the majority said that a biased subordinate's motive was irrelevant where the subordinate merely had "a substantial influence on the ultimate decision or . . . played a role, even a significant one, in the adverse employment decision." The dissent said that the majority's position put the Fourth Circuit at odds with virtually every other circuit as well as with the statutory language, "which impose[s] liability when an adverse employment decision is taken 'because of' sex or age discrimination." The dissent would have imputed a subordinate's bias to the formal decisionmaker when a subordinate's sex- or age-based bias "has a substantial or determinative influence on a formal decisionmaker's adverse employment action," because under those circumstances "the causation (or liability) requirement is satisfied."

This opinion fits with some of my writings on the interesting topic of proving motive/causation in cases against a public entity governed by a board or commission.

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