Employee Can Pursue Lawsuit for
Race and National Origin Discrimination
Based on a “Mixed Motive”
Theory of Liability.

Legal Translation Services Help Avoid Race and National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace

There’s often a correlation between foreign language barriers, race and national origin discrimination. We’ve blogged about the legal duty that employers large and small have to ensure that their employees are not subjected to discrimination based on their race or national origin, and how legal translation services in the workplace help avoid various types of discrimination. This, in turn, allows employers to avoid the significant time and expense involved in litigating employment-related lawsuits by its current or former employees. As discussed below, employers should be mindful of the fact that employees may pursue discrimination lawsuits against their employers based on either a “single motive” or “mixed motive” legal theory.

In Vargas v. Michaels Stores, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against his employer alleging claims of race and national origin discrimination as well as hostile work environment under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. Section 1981, and the Florida Civil Rights Act. After the close of discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment seeking the dismissal of all of the plaintiff’s claims based on the analytical framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).

Under the McDonnell Douglas theory, an employee must prove that the employer’s “true reason” for the adverse employment action was illegal.

In response to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff argued that his claims were brought under both the “single motive” theory of liability under the McDonnell Douglas framework as well as the “mixed motive” theory under Quigg v. Thomas County School District, 814 F.3d 1227 (11th Cir. 2016).

Under the latter theory, the court considers both proper and improper motives in determining whether the plaintiff has a claim resulting from an adverse employment action. The defendant failed to address the plaintiff’s claims under the “mixed motive” theory in reply and did not argue that this theory of liability was inapplicable.

The court granted the motion for summary judgment in part but also denied it in in part. The court found that the plaintiff had failed to show that his firing was rooted in discrimination and had failed to demonstrate that the defendant’s legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for his termination was false.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s claims brought under the “single motive” theory of liability. However, because the defendant did not address the plaintiff’s claims under the “mixed motive” framework, the court denied the plaintiff’s claims to the extent they were brought under this theory. The defendant then filed a Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration in response to the court’s ruling requesting, once again, that the court dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims against it. The defendant claimed that it did not have any notice that the plaintiff was pursuing a “mixed motive” theory of liability in the lawsuit.

In analyzing the defendant’s motion for reconsideration, the court first noted that “the only grounds for granting a [motion for reconsideration] are newly-discovered evidence or manifest errors of law or fact,” Anderson v. Fla. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., 567 Fed.Appx. 679, 680 (11th Cir. 2014), and further explained that granting relief under Rule 59(e) is “an extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources.” United States v. DeRochemont, 2012 WL 13510 at *2 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 4, 2012).

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that it did not have any notice of the theory upon which the plaintiff’s claims were based. The court reasoned that even if the defendant was not aware of the plaintiff’s legal theory when the lawsuit was filed, the defendant was certainly aware of the plaintiff’s theory after plaintiff filed his response to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

The court noted that although the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the real reason for his termination was discrimination, the court did not address the viability of the plaintiff’s claims under the “mixed motive” theory because the defendant never adequately addressed this theory in its motion for summary judgment. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s claims could survive if the plaintiff could show that his race or national origin was a motivating factor in his termination, even if he had in fact retaliated against his fellow employees.

Because the defendant did not present any change in controlling law, new evidence, or error of law or fact, the court summarily rejected the defendant’s motion for reconsideration of its partial denial of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

The case is Vargas v. Michaels Stores, Court No. 8:16-cv-1949-T-33JSS, currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.

Contact our multilingual translation service to retain Spanish, Amharic, Korean, Russian, Swahili, Persian, Bosnian, Cantonese legal deposition interpreters for cases dealing with national origin discrimination and other employment-related lawsuits.

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This legal translation services blog article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.

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