California Labor &
Employment Law Blog

Apr. 26 2010

California Supreme Court To Review Mixed Motive Defense Under FEHA

Topics: Court Decisions, Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation

On April 22, 2010, the California Supreme Court granted review of Harris v. Santa Monica, an important case that may permit California employers, like their counterparts in most other states and under federal law, to use a “mixed motive” defense against claims of discrimination and retaliation. In Harris, the plaintiff claimed that she was fired because she was pregnant. The City of Santa Monica wished to put on the defense that Harris would have been fired for poor performance regardless of her pregnancy due to her less than impeccable record of bus accidents, unexcused absences and unsatisfactory performance review. Santa Monica sought an order that would have required Harris to prove that her protected trait, pregnancy, was the motivating factor behind the termination as opposed to being one of the many things that her supervisors discussed when the termination decision was made. The trial court sided with Harris but the Second District Court of Appeal agreed that defendants should be permitted to put on a “mixed motive” defense. Now, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to provide employers with a more complete defense to claims of discrimination and retaliation under California law. We will continue to post developments on this case.

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For over 20 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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