Supreme Court Says “Significant Harm” No Longer Required for Claims Under Title VII


All Employers with 15+ Employees


April 17, 2024


Contact HR On-Call

(888) 378-2456

Quick Look

  • Plaintiffs do not need to demonstrate “significant harm” to state a claim of discrimination under Title VII.
  • A showing of “some” harm is sufficient for Title VII discrimination claims.


The Supreme Court recently decided that employees do not need to suffer “significant” harm to state a claim of discrimination under Title VII. In doing so, the Supreme Court has altered the level of proof that many lower courts typically require for plaintiffs to be successful in Title VII cases.

In Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, a female police officer sued the city police department, alleging that she was transferred from one job to another because she is a woman and that such transfer violated Title VII. Initially, the lower courts dismissed Muldrow’s claim because she had not shown that the transfer caused a “materially significant disadvantage.” The reasoning from the lower courts was based upon the fact that the transfer did not adversely affect Muldrow’s title, salary, or benefits, and had caused “only minor changes in working conditions.” This reasoning reflects the long-standing approach of many courts across the country when analyzing Title VII claims.

In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that Title VII requires a showing of “significant…serious, or substantial,” harm to a plaintiff in order to be successful on a claim for discrimination. According to the Court, the plain language of the statute imposed no such burden. Instead, plaintiffs must show that they suffered “some” harm, but exactly what constitutes “some” harm was not addressed. Of note, the majority decision indicated that this new “lower” standard may not apply to retaliation claims under Title VII.

Lower courts will be left to analyze and determine what qualifies as “some” harm, sufficient enough to establish a claim of discrimination under Title VII. Employers should monitor legal decisions and interpretations accordingly.

Action Items

  1. Monitor legal interpretations on standard for establishing discrimination under Title VII.
  2. Consult with legal counsel regarding adverse employment actions and potential liability.


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. © 2024 ManagEase