Nelson Law Group
Employment Law Attorneys
SF Bay Area : 415-689-6590
Toll Free : 866-290-0424

No damages for employees fired for both lawful and unlawful reasons

Further muddying the issue of "mixed motives" in employment discrimination, the California Supreme Court ruled that, when employees are fired for both lawful and unlawful reasons (i.e., with mixed motives), they can seek injunctions and recover attorneys' fees but not monetary damages for lost pay and emotional distress. In Harris v. City of Santa Monica, a city bus driver sued after she was fired shortly after telling her supervisor she was pregnant. The employee claimed she was fired because of her pregnancy, whereas the City claimed it was because of the employee's past performance problems. At trial, the employee won almost $180,000 in damages and $400,000 in attorneys' fees. On appeal, the Court first debated the showing employees need to make to establish discrimination claims: Did unlawful discrimination play some role in their firing (the best standard for employees)? Was it the "but for" reason for the firing (the best for employers)? Or was it a "substantial motivating factor" (something in between)? While the Court chose the middle ground standard, it nonetheless clarified that if employees only prove that discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in terminations, they cannot recover monetary damages. They can, however, still recover attorneys' fees and seek injunctions, since showing that unlawful discrimination substantially caused a firing should not be an "empty gesture."

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information


Representing both employers and employees makes me a better lawyer, because I know how the other side thinks.

Read More


I can provide the same level of service as a large law firm, but more efficiently and at a lower cost.

Read More

How Can We Help ?

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Keep In Touch

Nelson Law Group
345 West Portal Avenue
Suite 110
San Francisco, California 94127

Toll Free: 866-290-0424
Phone: 415-689-6590
Fax: 415-592-8671
Map & Directions
San Francisco Law Office Map