US Supreme Court Speaks on Discriminatory Transfers

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that may make discrimination claims premised on a job transfer or reassignment easier to prove.

In this case, Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, a female police officer alleged that her reassignment from a plainclothes job in a prestigious specialized division amounted to sex discrimination. Her rank and pay remained the same, but her responsibilities, perks, and schedule did not.

She alleged her previous job gave her substantial responsibility over priority investigations and frequent opportunity to work with police commanders. The new position was a uniformed job supervising one district’s patrol officers, in which she was less involved in high-visibility matters and primarily performed administrative work, her schedule became less regular, and she lost her take-home car.

Key takeaways: This standard applies to discrimination claims based on a transfer or reassignment.  The decision addresses precedent holding that a unilateral transfer was permissible as long as it didn’t result in a reduction in rank, pay, benefits, or some other significant change. This court is saying that the complaining party does not have to show a significant change and that any “disadvantageous change” in a term or condition is enough to proceed on a discrimination claim. Courts will apply this new standard to already pending cases.

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