Previously, under Head v. Glacier Northwest, Inc., the Ninth Circuit applied a “motivating factor” standard to ADA claims. Under this standard, a plaintiff had to merely show that the disability was a motivating factor in the adverse employment action, but it did not necessarily have to be the sole reason for the decision.
However, in Murray, the Ninth Circuit overruled Head in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Now, a plaintiff bringing a discrimination claim under the ADA must meet the higher “but for” standard by showing that the adverse employment action would not have occurred “but for the disability.” This ruling is consistent with other Circuits (Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh) that have considered the applicable standard for ADA claims since relevant Supreme Court decisions on the topic over the past decade.
While this standard may help employers defend ADA claims in federal court, it should not impact employers’ significant efforts to maintain workplaces free from discrimination.
If you have questions about your anti-discrimination policies or best practices to ensure a fair and equitable workplace, please contact Heather Fossity at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 276-2151. Barran Liebman’s Annual Employment, Labor, Benefits, and Higher Education Law Seminar on October 10th will also cover a variety of employment hot topics, including anti-discrimination policies. Please click here for registration details.
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