Plaintiff's Letter Brief - Gender Discrimination - Cat's Paw Doctrine

July 1, 2002

Honorable _______________

_______________ Judge


Re: No. _______________; Plaintiff v. Defendant; ___ Judicial District

Dear Judge _______________:

During a hearing on defendant’s motions for summary judgment on _______________, Your Honor stated that the parties may submit post hearing letter briefs. On _______________, Plaintiff submitted his/her first post-hearing letter brief addressing the general legal issues raised at the hearing. Here, plaintiff submits his/her second letter brief addressing a specific legal issue raised at the hearing.


At the hearing on _______________, Your Honor asked several questions seeking a better understanding of the “cat’s paw” legal theory and its application in this case as it relates to Defendant’s First Motion for Summary Judgment. By means of this letter brief, Plaintiff will clarify this legal theory and re-emphasize its applicability to the case at bar.

.The “Cat’s Paw” Legal Theory

The “cat’s paw” legal theory was developed by federal courts in recognition of the reality that, in many unlawful employment discrimination cases, the individual(s) making the adverse employment decision in question is/are influenced in making such decision by other person(s) who possess discriminatory animus towards the employee. In a nutshell, this legal theory permits an employee to avoid dismissal of his case based on the employer’s proffered evidence that the actual decisionmaker harbored no discriminatory animus towards the employee and/or had no personal knowledge of the employee’s peculiar characteristics or circumstances. The employee can accomplish this through the introduction of evidence demonstrating that a person with unlawful discriminatory animus influenced the actual decisionmaker in his decision.

The term “cat’s paw” was coined by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Shager v. Upjohn Co., 913 F.2d 398, 405 (7th Cir. 1990) (Posner, J) (“If the [formal decision-makers] acted as the conduit of [the employee’s] prejudice–his cat’s paw–the innocence of the [decision-makers] would not spare the company from liability.”). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has repeatedly upheld application of the “cat’s paw” legal theory and has permitted plaintiffs to utilize the theory to avoid dismissal in unlawful employment discrimination cases. See, Gee v. Principi, 2002 WL 597374 *2 (5th Cir. April 18, 2002) ; Russell v. McKinney Hosp. Venture, 235 F.3d...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT