California Supreme Court’s Decision Could Affect Future Workplace Discrimination Cases

by Bisnar Chase on February 9, 2013

An employer will not be liable for back pay or other compensation in the case of a worker who was fired for discrimination, if the employee would have been fired anyway for poor performance, the California Supreme Court decided. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, the 6-0 ruling with one justice recused, is likely to change the way most workplace discrimination cases are handled in California.

What makes a big difference after this decision is the fact that employees in the past could receive back pay and damages and win reinstatement if they could prove that discrimination was “a motivating factor” in the firing. Now, workers must show that discrimination or bias was a substantial factor in the firing and the employer will get a chance to argue that performance alone would have resulted in the worker’s termination.

Setting a Precedent

The court still said that employers must pay a litigant’s attorney’s fees if the jury does find that discrimination or bias was involved. In addition, a judge could also issue an injunction ordering the company involved to end discrimination. The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a jury award to a Santa Monica bus driver who was fired after revealing that she was pregnant. In this case, the city’s bus service argued that she would have been fired regardless of the pregnancy because she was involved in to accidents and failed two times to report to duty on time. A jury had previously awarded the woman $178,000 mostly for mental anguish. She could still pursue a case for sex discrimination, the Times reports.

Fighting for Your Rights

It does appear that this ruling sets a precedent in workplace discrimination cases and would make it more challenging for workers to prevail in discrimination cases. It gives employers more of an incentive to drag the worker’s name in the mud and try to show that he or she was somehow incompetent or did not perform well.

This makes it all the more important for workers who have been discriminated against to get an experienced California employment lawyer on their side – someone who will fight hard for their rights regardless of the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead. Discrimination in the workplace with regard to race, gender, color, age or nationality is illegal, no matter which way you slice it. If you have been discriminated against at the workplace, you have the right to hold your employer accountable.

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