Civil and Human Rights

RELEASE: Focus on Hypotheticals at Supreme Court Argument this Morning Shouldn’t Distract from the Question in this Case and Title VII’s Answer

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Supreme Court this morning in Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, a case in which the Court is asked to consider whether an individual challenging employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act must show that the discrimination caused a “materially significant disadvantage,” Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Brianne Gorod issued the following reaction:

There was a lot of discussion about hypotheticals and future cases at the Supreme Court this morning, but those questions shouldn’t distract from the question the Court agreed to decide in this case: does Title VII prohibit discrimination in transfer decisions absent a separate court determination that the transfer decision caused a significant disadvantage. To answer that question, the Court need look no farther than the plain text of Title VII.

As Justice Jackson rightly pointed out, Title VII makes it an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” on the basis of a protected characteristic, and “to discriminate” means to “make a difference in treatment or favor.” When, as occurred in this case, an employee is transferred because of their sex, there has been a difference in the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of a protected characteristic. That is enough to answer the question the Court agreed to decide in this case.

Whatever questions may be presented by future Title VII cases, this Title VII case should be an easy one for textualists. Holding that Title VII’s protections extend as broadly as the plain text of the law requires would be a win not only for Ms. Muldrow, but also for workers more broadly.

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Resources:

Case page in Muldrow v. City of St. Louis: https://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/muldrow-v-city-of-st-louis/

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Constitutional Accountability Center is a nonpartisan think tank and public interest law firm dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text, history, and values. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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