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The issue of mixed-motive adverse job actions “has been percolating for many years” in the courts, said Anthony J. Oncidi, a partner with Proskauer Rose L.L.P..

In Wynona Harris v. City of Santa Monica, the California Supreme Court grappled with an issue the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed and will reconsider in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Naiel Nassar M.D. At issue in the April 24 oral arguments is whether he must prove only that discrimination was one motive in his inability to obtain a job to prevail.

In 1989, the court held in Price Waterhouse v. Ann Hopkins that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires a plaintiff to prove that discrimination was a only “motivating factor” in the action.

But in its 2009 ruling in Jack Gross v. FBL Services Inc., the court held that under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, a defendant is not liable for discriminatory motives if it would have taken the same action for other, nondiscriminatory reasons.

Observers said the California ruling falls between the two U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the mixed-motives issue.