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Tangled is The Heart: U.S. Supreme Court Rejects “Mixed Motives” As A Basis For Retaliation Claims

Posted in Labor Law, Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

By:  Chuck Post

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the Supreme Court held that employees must show that “but for” the employer’s desire to retaliate, the employee would not have suffered an adverse action (demotion, termination, etc.) against him/her. Lower courts had been split over whether the “but for” standard was the correct one or whether employees could prove retaliation under a “mixed motive” standard that would require proof only that the improper motive was one of several reasons for the employer’s adverse action against the employee.

That ambiguity is now resolved. In order to prevail on a retaliation claim under federal discrimination statutes, a plaintiff must demonstrate that, absent his or her protected activity, the adverse employment action would not have occurred. This is good news for employers.