Kristin's Blog
Harris v. Santa Monica: Mixed Motive Discrimination Ruling

On February 7, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated decision that establishes a new standard of proof in mixed-motive discrimination cases, and significantly impacts the remedies employees are able to recover under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).  A “mixed motive” case is one where both unlawful discrimination and legitimate business reasons are at play in motivating the termination decision.

In the unanimous opinion, delivered by Justice Goodwin Liu, the Supreme court held that under a FEHA claim, when a jury finds that unlawful discrimination was a “substantial factor” motivating a termination of employment in a mixed motive case, and where the employer proves it would have made the same decision absent such discrimination for legitimate reasons, a court may not award damages, back pay, or an order of reinstatement.  At the same time, the Court emphasized that based on FEHA’s purpose of “not only redressing but also preventing and deterring unlawful discrimination in the workplace,” an employee who proved that discrimination was a substantial motivating reason for his or her termination may still be awarded “declaratory relief or injunctive relief to stop discriminatory practices” and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

To view the entire opinion, click here: Harris v. Santa Monica

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