It’s big news when an employee gets a unanimous win at the US Supreme Court.

Police Sergeant Muldrow says she was transferred from one job to another because she is a woman, so she sued under Title VII. Lower courts rejected the claim on the ground that the transfer did not cause Muldrow a “significant” employment disadvantage. Other courts have used similar standards in addressing Title VII suits arising from job transfers.

The US Supreme Court now says that approach is wrong. The Court says, “Although an employee must show some harm from a forced transfer to prevail in a Title VII suit, she need not show that the injury satisfies a significance test. Title VII’s text nowhere establishes that high bar.” Muldrow v. St. Louis (US S Ct 04/17/2024) [PDF].

It’s interesting that Justice Alito concurred in the result. He says the majority opinion provides that Title VII plaintiffs must show that the event they challenge constituted a “harm” or “injury,” but that the event need not be “significant” or “substantial.” Then he says, “I have no idea what this means.”

Muldrow was a plainclothes officer in a specialized Intelligence Division. Her new boss wanted to replace her with a male officer, so she got reassigned to a uniformed job.

The Court explained: “While Muldrow’s rank and pay remained the same in the new position, her responsibilities, perks, and schedule did not. Instead of working with high-ranking officials on the departmental priorities lodged in the Intelligence Division, Muldrow now supervised the day-to-day activities of neighborhood patrol officers. Her new duties included approving their arrests, reviewing their reports, and handling other administrative matters; she also did some patrol work herself. Because she no longer served in the Intelligence Division, she lost her FBI status and the car that came with it. And the change of jobs made Muldrow’s workweek less regular. She had worked a traditional Monday-through-Friday week in the Intelligence Division. Now she was placed on a ‘rotating schedule’ that often involved weekend shifts.”