As it is, employees have the ability to simply file a case against their erring employers and possibly win damages if they successfully prove that their employers are guilty of unlawful employment acts such as discrimination and harassment.
However, because of the recent developments brought about by the landmark decision of the California Supreme Court on Harris vs. City of Santa Monica, employees may be facing uncertainties with regard to the success of their claims.
It was on February 7 when the state Supreme Court decided on the “mixed-motive” defense applicable on FEHA claims. Before the decision was made on Harris, a claimant (the employee) may win damages and attorney fees if he or she can prove that the unlawful discrimination or harassment was a motivating factor.
Ever since the decision, any employee who files a FEHA claim against their employer may have to prove that the discriminatory act wasn’t only a motivating factor to win either damages or attorney fees, or both. They should also be able to prove that the illegal act was a “substantial” factor.
But, when an employer can show that it would have made the same employment decision due to legitimate reasons, the court may not award damages, back pay, or reinstatement even if there is a substantial evidence of discrimination or harassment. Although the employer could still pay attorney’s fees, the only way for it to avoid paying damages to the employee is for it to carry the burden of proof.
The landmark decision from the state Supreme Court provided a clear and concise guide on dealing with employment and labor cases, particularly those that revolve around the mixed-motive defense. Also, it created a higher standard for claimants that would help establish a claim for back pay or any other damages.
Meanwhile, while employers have the weapons to defend themselves from such claims and lawsuits against them, every Los Angeles labor lawyer continues to strive to provide justice for employees who are now facing this hard task of obtaining compensatory damages.