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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Harris v. City of Santa Monica: Supreme Court Rules on Causation, Mixed Motive

The California Supreme Court this morning issued its decision in Harris v. City of Santa Monica (2/7/13) --- Cal. ---. The main holdings are as follows:
We hold that under the FEHA, when a jury finds that unlawful discrimination was a substantial factor motivating a termination of employment, and when the employer proves it would have made the same decision absent such discrimination, a court may not award damages, backpay, or an order of reinstatement.  But the employer does not escape liability.  In light of the FEHA's express purpose of not only redressing but also preventing and deterring unlawful discrimination in the workplace, the plaintiff in this circumstance could still be awarded, where appropriate, declaratory relief or injunctive relief to stop discriminatory practices.  In addition, the plaintiff may be eligible for reasonable attorney‘s fees and costs.  Therefore, we affirm the Court of Appeal's judgment overturning the damages verdict in this case and remand for further proceedings in accordance with the instructions set forth below.
The per curiam opinion, with Baxter recused, was written by Justice Liu and is available here.

More to follow once I have a chance to review at length. 


Please remember that Paul Cane and David deRubertis will speak on Harris for the State bar's Watch List Webinar series in the next couple of weeks.  This is going to be a very lively and important discussion.  

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