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Iowa Supreme Court Decision Favors Employers in Bias Trials.

Friday, June 21, 2019

(North American Meat Institute)

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously overturned the jury verdict in a discrimination case, setting a precedent that employers are entitled to a "same-decision" jury instruction in mixed motive cases. The original case, Gregory Hawkins v. Grinnell Regional Medical Center, et al , awarded Gregory Hawkins more than $4.5 million after he alleged the medical center terminated his employment because of his age and disability, which violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The state's Supreme Court overturned the ruling, stating that the trial court allowed hearsay evidence that went beyond its intended purpose. The justices then went a step further, determining that on retrial, the jury should be instructed under the same-decision framework established in a previous U.S. Supreme Court case. The Iowa Supreme Court held that when an employee proves his or her protected characteristic "was a motivating factor in the employer's actions," the employer may avoid liability by establishing it "would have made the same decision even if it had not taken the plaintiff's" age, disability, sex, race or any other characteristic protected under the ICRA, into account.

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