ComplianceJune 1, 20240

Supreme Court Establishes New Harm Standard for Title VII Discrimination Claims

The recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Muldrow v. City of St. Louis has implications for workplace discrimination claims related to employee transfers or similar employment actions. 

In essence, the Muldrow decision removes the necessity for employees to prove that an employment action caused “substantial,” “material,” or “significant” harm in order to pursue a Title VII discrimination claim. 

So, what does this mean for employers who want to transfer an employee but are concerned about potential liability?

  1. First and foremost, document your legitimate business reasons for the transfer. Regardless of whether the individual experiences harm, having a well-documented non-discriminatory rationale for the transfer can serve as a strong defense. A good practice is to ensure that your written records clearly outline the reasons behind the transfer, allowing an outsider to understand the decision without additional context.
  2. Consider the impact of the transfer on the employee. Take into account factors such as pay, schedule, convenience, career advancement opportunities, relationships, and workspace. Even minor changes can result in “some harm” to the individual. Justice Kavanaugh’s concurrence highlights the importance of assessing whether the transfer is rooted in discrimination. Therefore, it’s crucial to thoroughly evaluate the implications of the transfer and document legitimate reasons accordingly.
  3. Avoid using transfers as a form of punishment. Punitive transfers are transparent and can create a hostile work environment characterized by fear and insecurity. Instead, make transfer decisions based on what is best for both the organization and the employee. Any hint of vindictiveness in the transfer process can raise doubts about the validity of the stated business reasons.

Contact us if you need guidance on how to navigate this new ruling :

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