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Another blow to wrongfully terminated employees. : (

By Thomas M Lee

The California Court of Appeal recently held this month in Alamo v. Practice Management Information that a wrongfully terminated employee must prove that illegal discrimination was a “substantial factor motivating” the termination of employment or other adverse employment action. This means that the defendant employer in such an action may use a “mixed-motive” defense by proving that it had a legal reason for making the same adverse decision.

Basically, let's say that a female employee was fired because she was pregnant, but the employer happened to prove that it would have fired her anyway because of poor performance. As a result, the employee may not obtain reinstatement, backpay, front pay, or noneconomic damages, but may obtain declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as a result. This means the employee basically gets nothing.

Does this mean that a wrongfully terminated employee should never sue for discrimination? No. All the case means that in certain cases, the burden on the employee in order to win just got heavier.

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