The California Supreme Court has added a mixed motive defense to employment discrimination actions. Even where a jury finds unlawful discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in the termination of an employee no damages, back pay, or reinstatement may be awarded where the employer is able to prove it would have terminated the employee anyway. The case, Harris v. City of Santa Monica, centered around a pregnant city employee who was fired by the city. The Plaintiff claimed she was fired because she was pregnant and the city countered that it was for safety and tardiness reasons.
The opinion did rule that injunctive or declaratory relief and reasonable attorney's fees and costs would still be available to a Plaintiff where the mixed motive defense is successfully invoked by the defense. Under the appropriate circumstances an employer might also be liable for discrimination as unlawful harassment under a different provision within the California Fair Employment and Housing Act even where the mixed motive defense precludes damages for employment discrimination.
The Opinion can be accessed here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S181004A.PDF
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