South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Company May Be Liable for Hidden Bias by Supervisor
Description Appeals court held that if an employee could show that his termination involved age discrimination by a supervisor, who claimed to have fired him for financial reasons, then the company could be liable even though it had no knowledge of the bias because it gave the supervisor authority to make the decision without adequate internal review.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Age Discrimination; Supervisor Bias; Information Manipulation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Cariglia was hired by Hertz in 1980. In 1992 he became Boston branch manager, which significantly improved its finances through 1996. Cariglia was commended by the president of Hertz and received high annual evaluations through 1995 by Heard, the regional vice president. Cariglia was fired in 1996 when he was 62 years old. Heard ordered a company auditor to dig up sufficient information to provide a financial reason to dismiss Cariglia, who was fired for "gross misconduct." Heard had said to other managers that Cariglia was "over the hill." Cariglia sued for age discrimination but the district court dismissed the suit. Cariglia appealed.
Decision

Vacated and remanded. Evidence that age bias existed by Heard, while it may not have been the only cause of Cariglia's dismissal, could be found by a jury to be a material factor in the dismissal. That bias could be imputed to Hertz. Even if Hertz was unaware of any bias by Heard, he was given a position of authority to determine the information that would be used to terminate Cariglia, who was not given an opportunity to counter the impression created by Heard. The president of Hertz is not accused of bias, but if he and other executives allowed others to control the employment decision process in such a way that bias could be a controlling factor, then Hertz could be liable.

Citation Cariglia v. Hertz Equipment Rental Corp., 363 F.3d 77 (1st Cir., 2004)

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