Harris v. City of Santa MonicaAnnotate this Case
The City fired Plaintiff, a bus driver, for allegedly poor job performance. Plaintiff brought this action against the City, alleging she was fired because of her pregnancy in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). During trial, the City requested the court to instruct the jury that if it found a mix of discriminatory and legitimate motives, the City could avoid liability by proving that a legitimate motive alone would have led it to make the same decision to fire Plaintiff. The trial court refused the instruction, and the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the refusal to give the requested instruction was prejudicial error. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal's judgment overturning the damages verdict in this case and remanded, holding (1) 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 (2) Plaintiff in this circumstance could still be awarded, where appropriate, declaratory relief or injunctive relief to stop discriminatory practices.