In a significant loss for plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the argument that the Civil Rights Act of 1991 eliminated the distinction between “mixed motive” cases and “pretext” cases.

As a result, the court held in Watson v. SEPTA that only plaintiffs in mixed-motive cases are entitled to the act’s lighter burden of showing that an illegal animus was a “motivating” factor in the action taken against them, while plaintiffs in pretext cases must still prove that the discriminatory motive was a “determinative” factor.

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