Especially since the appointments to the Supreme Court during the last administration, the Supreme Court ordinarily has not rendered progressive decisions. To the contrary, as exemplified by majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court has ruled in ways that deviate from longstanding precedent or otherwise conflict with public consensus. In this context, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Muldrow v. City of St. Louis is one of a few positive rulings for employees and other civil rights claimants.

In Muldrow, the Supreme Court rejected the employer’s arguments that an employee must show that the job transfer in question significantly harmed them – in addition to being based on the employee’s sex, race, or other protected trait – before the employee can have a valid discrimination claim. The Supreme Court ruled that employees only need to show some harm to an employment term or condition resulted from the involuntary job transfer. The Supreme Court reasoned that Title VII, the civil rights statute on which the plaintiff in Muldrow based their employment law case, does not state how much worse an employer must treat an employee to trigger a valid discrimination claim – so now interpreting Title VII to require significant harm would rewrite Title VII in violation of settled law.

Although Mudrow technically addressed only employer job transfers, the core principles and governing reasoning of that decision can and should be applied to a variety of other contexts under employer law. In short, the broad interpretation of disparate treatment under Title VII in Muldrow should inform how courts apply disparate treatment for purposes of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and other civil rights statues. Importantly, these employment laws authorize the award of extensive remedies, including emotional distress damages, treble damages, and/or punitive damages as well as the recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs.