NFIB – Small Business Legal Center Files Friend-of-the-Court Brief in Landmark Supreme Court Case

Date: Oct 01, 2010

Washington, DC, October 1, 2010 – The National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a landmark Supreme Court case that will decide when an employer may be held liable for the unlawful bias of an employee who participated in but did not make the decision to terminate another employee. The case is Staub v. Proctor Hospital, Case No. 09-400. Manesh K. Rath, partner at Keller and Heckman served as lead counsel on the brief.

NFIB – Small Business Legal Center filed the brief in support of Proctor Hospital, who terminated the plaintiff, Mr. Staub, for insubordination and malfeasance in a well-documented record that stretched back many years. Mr. Staub claimed that the real reason he was terminated from his position as an angiography technician was that his immediate supervisor, who took no part in the decision to terminate Mr. Staub, resented his service in the Army Reserves and took steps to get him fired, in violation of federal law.

The jury sided with Mr. Staub and held that the unlawful animus of the supervisor could be imputed to Proctor Hospital even though the supervisor did not make the decision to terminate Mr. Staub. The Seventh Circuit reversed and held that before a jury can consider evidence of the unlawful bias of a non-decision maker, the plaintiff must show that the actual decision maker was "wholly dependent" on the biased non-decision maker. Because that was not the case here, the court reversed.

This case will affect small businesses as it has the potential to decide the limits of an employer's responsibility for the actions of all its employees under the anti-discrimination laws. The Supreme Court will hear argument in this case on November 2 and a decision is expected sometime in early 2011.

Keller and Heckman, founded in 1962, has a broad practice in regulatory law, and related litigation and business transactions. Manesh Rath is an employment and labor law attorney representing management in matters nationwide.

Keller and Heckman serves clients from its offices in Washington, D.C., Brussels, San Francisco, and Shanghai.

For more information please contact Tara Busby at 202.434.4174, or visit