Mixed Motive Law and Legal Definition

Mixed motive is a consept used in employment law to prove illegal discrimination against an employee. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual "because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." The mixed motive theory generally applies when the employer has legitimate as well as discriminatory reasons for the employment decision. The plaintiff must provide sufficiently strong circumstantial evidence of discrimination that might lead a jury to find that the employment decision was motivated, at least in part, by discrimination. The "mixed motive" instruction requires a jury to find in favor of a plaintiff if the jury determines that a protected characteristic was a motivator in an employer's treatment of the employee, even if the jury concludes that an employer was also motivated by lawful considerations. In Desert Palace v. Costa, 123 S. Ct. 2148 (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that plaintiffs could use direct or circumstantial evidence to make the showing necessary to merit a mixed-motive instruction.