2 min read

U. S. Supreme Court Broadens the Basis for Discrimination Claims

Surprising ruling means that employers can expect more lawsuits

The most common legal claims brought against staffing firms (and employers in general) are lawsuits brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and its state and local variants. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned decades of established lower court law in an employee-friendly ruling will likely increase the number of discrimination claims and filings.

Historically, in order to assert a valid discrimination claim, an employee needed to suffer a “materially significant disadvantage” resulting from the employer's adverse actions. This meant that employer actions that did not inflict significant economic harm were often rejected by the courts, even if the action was disadvantageous to the worker. But on April 17, the Court ruled that a plaintiff can support a discrimination claim by showing any disadvantageous change in the terms or conditions of employment. In the case, a female police officer was transferred to a different position that had the same rank, salary, and benefits as before, but fewer perks. Her former role went to male police officer, and she sued for sex discrimination. She lost at every level until reaching the Supreme Court.

The details can be gleaned in this story by the fine lawyers at Morgan Lewis:

US Supreme Court Expands the Scope of Employment Decisions That Can Support Title VII Claims
The US Supreme Court ruled on April 17 that any “disadvantageous” change in the “terms and conditions” of employment that is based on race, gender, or another protected characteristic is actionable under Title VII, even if the disadvantage is not considered significant or material. This expansion of the types of employment decisions that can support a Title VII discrimination claim will require employers to more carefully consider the impact of various employment programs and activities, from job transfers to DEI programs.