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Supreme Court to decide on whether unwanted workplace transfers are discriminatory

On Behalf of | Jul 13, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

There are many ways an employer could illegally discriminate against their employees. Examples include employers paying female employees less than men, restricting promotions for certain employees based on race or gender, denying paid sick leave for female employees recovering from childbirth and so on.

But what about companies transferring their employees to an unwanted post? Do such actions count as discrimination?

In a move that could set a national precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently agreed to decide on the matter as it handles a case brought by a St. Louis police officer.

The officer claimed in a lawsuit that her police department transferred her to an undesirable post so that a male officer would replace her current role. However, a lower court ruled that the police department’s conduct didn’t form any basis for a discrimination lawsuit. The lower court also explained that for workers to file a discrimination claim, they must prove that they suffered some form of material harm or considerable change in their employment status (i.e., demotions, terminations or lowered pay).

When the lower court ruled in favor of the police department, the officer appealed the decision. The case has been brought to the Supreme Court’s attention, which will hear the case in October.

California’s stance on unwanted transfers as discrimination

While the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on the issue, California’s fair employment laws state that discrimination can apply to a broad list of business practices that can be used to alienate, harass or retaliate against employees. This includes hiring, promotions, terminations, applicant screenings, and separating and transferring employees.

This means workers in California don’t have to wait until later this year to raise their discrimination claims. If they feel like their employer unfairly transferred them, they could file a lawsuit because state laws currently prohibit such discrimination. They may want to consult first with an employment law attorney before filing a lawsuit to confirm if they have a strong enough claim.