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Justices Favor St. Louis Police Officer Charging Sex Bias

A St. Louis police officer seemed to convince the Supreme Court on Wednesday that she should be able to bring a sex discrimination lawsuit against her department for transferring her to another unit based on her sex. “We've recognized over and over again that discrimination itself can profoundly injure people, just the fact itself that you're being treated differently from somebody else based on your race, based on your sex,” Justice Elena Kagan said. Kagan found Sgt. Jatonya Clayborn Muldrow’s arguments — and the Justice Department attorney who argued in her favor — presented the justices with a simple and easy solution to solve the dispute, reports Courthouse News Service. "If there is discrimination that counts as harm,” Kagan said.


The question before the court is whether job transfers based on sex were enough in themselves to be discriminatory or if there was a requirement to prove the transfer resulted in harm. Justice Neil Gorsuch said the discrimination was all the court needed to find. “I think we've also kind of indicated in our cases that when you treat someone worse than another person because of race or sex, that's kind of the end of it,” he said.

“Once the courts get into the business of asking whether that injury is material or a reasonable person would be offended by it, that's a whole different extra textual layer that's going to weed out a bunch of claims based on a judge's sensibilities about how bad is bad enough." For almost a decade, Clayborn Muldrow was assigned to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s intelligence division working on public corruption, human trafficking, and gun and gang violence. Muldrow’s commander called her a “workhorse.” When that captain stepped down from her post, Muldrow was transferred to another unit. The city argued that discrimination wasn’t enough on its face, and Muldrow needed to prove that she had been harmed by the transfer.

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