From our offices in Sherman Oaks, we serve clients throughout Southern California.

  1. Home
  2.  → 
  3. Employment Law
  4.  → Supreme Court ruling lowers bar for discrimination claims

Supreme Court ruling lowers bar for discrimination claims

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Employment Law

With all the high-profile cases being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court lately, one that can affect millions of Americans went under the radar – even though it was a rare unanimous decision. The decision will make it easier for employees to file discrimination claims against their employers.

The ruling involves Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The federal law prohibits private employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” in “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”

Courts have traditionally required plaintiffs to show not just that they experienced discrimination based on their identity but that they suffered some kind of adverse job-related action. That might include being demoted, fired or not being hired in the first place.

The case before the court

The case before the court involved a female police sergeant who sued her police department under Title VII because she was transferred and replaced by a male. Her new assignment didn’t involve a reduction in pay or rank but did carry some loss of status and responsibilities.

A lower court dismissed her claim because she hadn’t suffered a “materially significant disadvantage” because of the transfer, even if it was done because of her gender. The high court, however, essentially ruled that an employee didn’t have to show “significant” harm, but only “some” harm related to “an identifiable term or condition of employment.”

The justices noted that the law doesn’t say anything about “significant” harm. They further said that treating an employee worse because they’re in a protected class is in fact discrimination. The ruling lowers the bar for Title VII claims.

This doesn’t mean that all Title VII claims will be easy or necessarily succeed. Even the plaintiff at the center of this case may not ultimately succeed. She still needs to prove that she was transferred because of her gender.

The best way to determine whether your case meets the new criteria for a Title VII claim is to seek experienced legal guidance. This can help you determine the best course of action.