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Sixth Circuit remains an "outlier" in requiring disability discrimation claimants to prove "sole" motivating factor

Susan Lewis appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals after the trial jury in her case decided that she had not proved that disability discrimination was the "sole" motivating factor behind her termination from employment.   She argued that the trial judge erred by instructing the jury that she must prove that discrimination was the sole cause, rather than simply the motivating cause, of her dismissal.

The Judges pointed out that in Monette v. Electronic Data Systems, the Sixth Circuit had required that disability discrimination claimants prove that disability discrimination was the sole basis for the employer's adverse employment action.   Under Sixth Circuit rules, this holding is binding in the Sixth Circuit region until it is over-turned by the U.S. Supreme Court or by the Sixth Circuit Judges sitting en banc (as a group). 

Judge Griffin wrote a spirited concurrence in which he pointed out that the Monette case is "misguided" and contrary to the legal interpretation of the overwhelming majority of sister circuits.  The judge noted that all but one other circuit has adopted the "motivating factor" test, which is a much more reasonable standard consistent with the lawmaking body's stated purpose.  It should be more than adequate for a disabled employee to prove that an illegal purpose motivated the employer.

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