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Basis of California ruling


The California Supreme Court's ruling in Wynona Harris v. City of Santa Monica involved a probationary bus driver who had had two preventable accidents, reported late for work twice and was terminated shortly after she told her supervisor she was pregnant.

“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, back pay or an order of reinstatement,” the California high court ruled.

“But the employer does not escape liability,” the court said. In light of the state law's express purpose of deterring unlawful discrimination, plaintiffs may be awarded declaratory or injunctive relief and “reasonable” attorney fees and costs, the court ruled in remanding the case for further proceedings.