(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a boost to a St. Louis police officer who sued after claiming she was transferred to an undesirable new job because of her sex in a case testing the scope of federal workplace protections.

The 9-0 ruling by the justices threw out a decision by a lower court to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the officer, Jatonya Muldrow, and directed it to reconsider the matter. At issue in the case is whether federal law banning workplace bias requires employees to prove that discrimination caused them tangible harm such as a pay cut, demotion or loss of job.

Muldrow has claimed she was transferred out of a police intelligence unit by a new supervisor who wanted a male officer in the position.

The city of St. Louis has said officers are routinely transferred and that Muldrow’s supervisor transferred more than 20 officers when he took over the intelligence unit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on sex, race, religion and other characteristics “with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment.”

Muldrow was backed by President Joe Biden’s administration, which had urged the Supreme Court to endorse a broad application of Title VII. The Justice Department in the brief said that discriminatory transfers always violate the law because they necessarily involve a change in working conditions.

Lower courts were divided over whether any workplace bias violates Title VII, or if companies violate the law only when discrimination influences major employment decisions.

In Muldrow’s case, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022 decided that her transfer had not negatively affected her working conditions, agreeing with a Missouri federal judge’s earlier ruling.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in December.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.

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