Archive for 'July 2011'

    Supervisors Animus – Aesop’s Fable, USERRA and the Fire Service

    July 14, 2011 3:22 PM by John K. Murphy
    While perusing the legal network I came upon this case discussed by a Connecticut Law Firm and published in their Newsletter.

    One of Aesop’s most memorable fables, “The Monkey and the Cat,” tells the story of a monkey who convinces a cat to pull roasting chestnuts from a fire. The cat retrieves the chestnuts, but in doing so, burns his paws. Meanwhile, the monkey scampers away with the chestnuts, leaving the cat with nothing.

    So what do monkeys, cats, and white-hot chestnuts have to do with employer liability?

    In Staub v. Proctor Hospital, the U.S. Supreme Court uses the term “cat’s paw” to describe an employment law situation where an employer unknowingly makes an adverse employment decision based on a supervisor’s unlawful animus. In such a scenario, the employer serves as the cat’s paw,” the instrument through which the monkey, (in this case, the supervisor), can exercise his animus without getting burned. In Staub, the plaintiff employee worked as an angiography technician for the hospital. The plaintiff was also a member of the United States Army Reserve, which required him to train one weekend a month, in addition to full-time training two to three weeks a year.

    Two of hospital’s other employees, Staub’s supervisor’s “were hostile to Staub’s military obligations.” This hostility prompted the supervisors to issue Staub disciplinary warnings for violating nonexistent company rules, warnings that were placed in Staub’s personnel file, and used as a basis to terminate Staub’s employment with the hospital. Relying on these allegations, the hospital’s vice president of human resources, decided to fire Staub.

    In response, Staub sued the hospital under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), claiming that his discharge was “motivated by hostility toward his obligations as a military reservist.” Yet, as the Court noted, Staub’s contention was not that “the HR Director had any such hostility, but that his supervisors did, and that their actions influenced the HR Director’s ultimate employment decision.”

    Holding that a “cat’s paw” case could not “succeed unless the non-decision maker exercised such ‘singular influence’ over the decision maker that the decision to terminate was the product of ‘blind reliance,” the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the hospital.

    However, The Supreme Court, reversed this decision, holding that, if a supervisor performs an act motivated by antimilitary animus “that is intended to cause an adverse employment action, and if that is a proximate cause of the ultimate employment action, then the employer, then the employer is liable under USERRA.”

    So how is this recent “cat’s paw” case going to affect employers like your fire department? First, the cat’s paw principle established in the Staub decision is likely to be applied to other, similar claims of animus. Second, it is clear that simply conducting an “independent investigation” is not sufficient to protect employers from such claims. It is imperative that employers have an employee handbook which addresses discipline and discharge policies also to include managing the time off of your reservist employees under USERRA. It is also important to understand that during termination events, if you are the “cat’s paw” please understand all of the background on a termination recommendation so you don’t get burned.

    Source - Law of the Workplace - June 2011 SIEGEL, O’CONNOR, O’DONNELL & BECK, P.C. Newsletter. Connecticut

    Great product for communicating with your non-english speaking EMS patients

    July 10, 2011 5:28 PM by John K. Murphy
    Every once in a while there is an innovative product on the market that can make a great difference in communicating with your non-english speaking EMS patients.

    This is where InDemand Interpreting can assist your crews in making sure the information from you patients is correct and accurate so you can provide the right treatment modalities.

    If interested look up INDEMAND INTERPRETING at

    or contact Daniel Pirestani, CEO at 509.470.0854

Previous Posts

Rollbacks in Firefighter Pensions

Tue Jun 12 16:32:00 CDT 2012

Legal Fire Prevention - Social Media Policy

Wed May 16 17:34:00 CDT 2012

The Fire Service Crucible – are we prepared to withstand the heat in order to survive?

Tue May 01 14:09:00 CDT 2012

Pesky Legal Fires that Keep on Burning

Mon Mar 26 20:28:00 CDT 2012


Mon Mar 19 09:09:00 CDT 2012

The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking

Thu Dec 22 10:08:00 CST 2011

Lessons Learned: Discrimination against a Disabled Firefighter

Mon Nov 28 12:57:00 CST 2011


Thu Nov 17 17:20:00 CST 2011

How many politicians does it take to unscrew a light bulb?

Thu Oct 20 22:33:00 CDT 2011

DEEP BORE Tunneling Projects – Decompression Injury Management

Thu Oct 06 17:32:00 CDT 2011

Fire Chief Liabilities – what are they and some prevention tips?

Fri Sep 23 17:07:00 CDT 2011

Litigation Forcing Diversity - 2011

Wed Sep 07 17:18:00 CDT 2011

Leadership Styles – things our firefighters want and don’t want from our leadership.

Wed Aug 03 18:02:00 CDT 2011

Supervisors Animus – Aesop’s Fable, USERRA and the Fire Service

Thu Jul 14 15:22:00 CDT 2011

Great product for communicating with your non-english speaking EMS patients

Sun Jul 10 17:28:00 CDT 2011

More on Social Media – National Labor Relations Board protects trash talking your supervisor under a protected speech analysis.

Tue Jun 28 09:32:00 CDT 2011

More on Social Media – National Labor Relations Board protects trash talking your supervisor under a protected speech analysis.

Tue Jun 28 09:32:00 CDT 2011

What does the Fire Service have in common with the US Navy?

Wed Jun 22 13:51:00 CDT 2011

Let me tell you a little about my father.

Fri Jun 17 12:55:00 CDT 2011

Abandoned Structures – Finally leadership recognizes the Danger

Wed Jun 15 14:27:00 CDT 2011

Sex, Sex and more Sex

Wed Jun 08 16:00:00 CDT 2011