D.C. Circuit: “Objectively Tangible Harm” No Longer Required to Prove Title VII Discrimination


All Employers with Employees in the District of Columbia


June 3, 2022


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In Chambers v. District of Columbia, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals stated it would no longer require obvious harm, like termination or a reduction in pay, for an employer to be liable for discrimination under Title VII. There, an investigator for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General claimed she was discriminated against on the basis of sex due to the denial of several transfer requests to different departments while similar requests were routinely granted to male employees.


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to [their] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” In its ruling, the D.C. Circuit determined an employer who denies a job transfer request because of an employee’s protected characteristic, like sex, discriminates against the employee in violation of Title VII.  The ultimate impact, whether financial or otherwise, is irrelevant.


While the D.C. Circuit’s ruling was specific to job transfers, it remains to be seen whether this analysis will extend to other acts of disparate treatment to support a claim under Title VII. This court’s rationale may also be adopted by other circuit courts. Employers should continue to monitor similar developments in other jurisdictions.


Action Items

  1. Review process for managing employee transfer requests to ensure consistent enforcement and procedures.
  2. Have appropriate personnel trained on Title VII protections.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2022 ManagEase