In Muldrow v City of St. Louis, the high court ruled that Title VII prohibits discriminatory job transfers that cause some harm to terms or conditions of employment, but the employee is not required to show that the harm was significant. 

The plaintiff, Jatonya Muldrow, a St. Louis Police Department sergeant, filed suit against the department, alleging to be the victim of sex discrimination following an involuntarily transfer from her position in the Intelligence Division to a patrol position for her supervisor to specifically hire a man into her position.

Muldrow’s rank and salary remained the same in her new position, but her responsibilities, benefits, and work schedule did not. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Missouri, and the Constitutional Accountability Center filed an amicus brief in support of Muldrow, who claimed her employer violated Title VII by transferring her to a new position and subsequently denying a transfer request due to her sex.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of the City, holding that Muldrow’s transfer “did not result in a diminution to her title, salary, or benefits” with “only minor changes in working conditions.” To prove the transfer was discriminatory, the court decided that Muldrow was required to show that the transfer resulted in a “materially significant disadvantage,” which she did not. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

The deputy director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project stated that when employees have meritorious discrimination claims, the courts have historically been quick to dismiss them under the “materially” or “significantly” adverse standard, in contradiction to eliminating workplace discrimination. In their ruling, the Court recognized that Title VII does not require that an employee challenging a job transfer must satisfy a heightened threshold of harm to bring a claim, she reiterated.

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