In Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S181004 (Cal. Feb. 7, 2013), the California Supreme Court held that a plaintiff can establish a claim of employment discrimination by showing that discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in the decision-making process.  The Supreme Court also held that even if a plaintiff establishes that discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in the decision-making process, the defendant is entitled to establish a “mixed motive” defense by proving that legitimate factors would have been sufficient, absent the discrimination, to produce the same decision.  On the surface, these two holdings appear contradictory.  That each of those propositions is true highlights the significance of the Court’s rulings on remedies.  Even if the defendant establishes its mixed motive – or same-decision – defense, that defense does not immunize the employer from liability.  Instead, the plaintiff may potentially be entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief, and may recover attorneys’ fees even though the employer successfully establishes its defense.


Continue Reading The California Supreme Court Recognizes Mixed-Motive Defense In Employment Discrimination Litigation, But With A Catch