U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Stricter Standard for Title VII Job Transfer Suits

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on April 17 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discriminatory job transfers, even if they are not accompanied by significant harm to the employee. This will likely clear the way for more workplace bias lawsuits to proceed.

The justices, in their unanimous decision in Muldrow v. St. Louis, rejected some appellate courts’ standards which had excluded Title VII claims centering on job transfers that didn’t come with “‘significant’ employment disadvantage.” Justice Elena Kagan wrote that, while the transferred employee must show some harm when making a Title VII claim, “what the transferee does not have to show, according to the relevant text, is that the harm incurred was ’significant.’”
Title VII expressly prohibits bias with respect to someone’s “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”
The case arose out of a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by a St. Louis police sergeant after she was transferred to a different department. The sergeant, who alleged that the move was because she was a woman, said that the new position would have harmed her career prospects, as it would come with less prestige, not as many perks, and fewer responsibilities. In 2022, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that her circumstances did not trigger Title VII’s protections because it did not pass their “materially significant disadvantage” test.
While the Fifth, Sixth, and D.C. Circuit courts have already eased their harm requirements in relation to transfers in recent years, the Supreme Court’s decision here will call for the revising of other appellate courts’ transferee harm tests, including those of the Eighth Circuit.
Henrichsen Law Group, PLLC represents employees only in all types of employment and labor law matters, including federal and state anti-discrimination laws (Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA), sexual harassment claims, wage and hour law claims, employment contracts and non-competition agreements, and employment and related business tort claims. Neil L. Henrichsen has over 30 years experience fighting for the rights of working people.  For a confidential consultation, please contact nhenrichsen@hslawyers.com.