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U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case on Whether Lateral Transfer Is Basis for Discrimination Claim

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In addition to releasing several major decisions, the end of the U.S. Supreme Court’s annual term included the justices agreeing to hear the appeal of a case with important implications for employers. The case involves the question of whether a lateral transfer constitutes a “adverse employment action” upon which a Title VII discrimination claim can be based. 

Muldrow v. City of St. Louis involves a sex discrimination claim by a police officer who alleges that she was transferred to a less prestigious position due to her gender. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim because the plaintiff did not allege that the transfer resulted in termination, demotion, or loss of pay. The court will determine whether a transfer to another position that appears on its face to be equivalent can form the basis for a sex discrimination claim.

If the plaintiff prevails, this would create an opportunity for employees to sue for discrimination based on less tangible changes to the terms and condition of their work. The Supreme Court could conclude that the employee’s own subjective view of the changes can result in an actionable discrimination claim. The court will hear arguments on the case in the fall, with a decision expected late in the year or in early 2024.