Decisions made by the United States Supreme Court are usually the final word on legal matters. And, it’s not easy for someone to make their case heard. Out of 7,000 requests yearly, the justices only review approximately 100-150.
In December 2023, they listened to arguments on a case that impacts every employee dealing with discrimination in the workplace.
Muldrow vs. the City of St. Louis, MO
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. Jatonya Clayborn Muldrow claims the city of St. Louis, MO, violated that law when they transferred her to a different job with the same pay and title but less prestige and overtime opportunities. She stated that the transfer decision was based on her sex.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled in favor of her employer based on her inability to establish that she had suffered any harm or economic damages due to the transfer. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit agreed with the ruling.
Representatives for Muldrow presented their oral arguments to the Supreme Court on December 6, 2023. While the final decision is pending, the justices seemed to side with the employee. The common theme was that any discrimination is bad and violates the law; therefore, there should be no inquiry into how bad the treatment was.
A Supreme Court ruling in favor of Muldrow could change the interpretation of what constitutes employment discrimination until Title VII. It will protect against discriminatory transfer decisions, even if the position has the same pay and title. However, a ruling in favor of the City of St. Louis may make it more difficult for employees to prove discrimination if they weren’t harmed economically by a lateral transfer.