California Supreme Court: Mixed Motive Termination Not Entitled to Damages
In a much awaited California employment-law decision, the Supreme Court of California determined that the California Fair Employment and Housing Act does not allow for damages, backpay or reinstatement in an unlawful termination suit in which a jury determines that discrimination is a substantial factor in termination, but the employer proves the same decision would have been made without discrimination. The case arose from a pregnancy discrimination suit against the city of Santa Monica, in which a bus driver claimed she was terminated because of pregnancy. The trial court refused the City’s request for a mixed-motive jury instruction. However, the California Supreme Court reversed, finding that if an employer can prove that the termination would have happened apart from the discrimination, damages, backpay and reinstatement are not available. However, the Court did leave open the possibility of injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.
Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S181004 (Cal. Feb. 7, 2013).