Unanimous Supreme Court Opens Door to More Anti-DEI Lawsuits

Evan Poellinger | April 19, 2024
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In a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court has significantly opened the possibility of increased anti-DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion ideology) lawsuits, thanks to the establishment of a new standard of violations, “that any harm—whether significant or insignificant—satisfies Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act.

Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, the case in question, concerned whether or not police officer Jatonya Muldrow’s transfer to another division — allegedly because of her sex — represented a violation of Title VII as discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” related to “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges.”

In the majority and concurring opinions, the justices used similar language to characterize the light standard required to consider Muldrow’s transfer a violation of Title VII. Justice Elena Kagan noted that, “to make out a Title VII discrimination claim, a transferee must show some harm respecting an identifiable term or condition of employment. What the transferee does not have to show, according to the relevant text, is that the harm incurred was ‘significant.’”

Justice Kavanaugh espoused a similar sentiment in his concurring opinion, declaring that “No court has adopted a some-harm requirement, and no party or amicus advocated that requirement to this Court. More to the point, the text of Title VII does not require a separate showing of some harm. The discrimination is harm.”

One tenet of DEI ideology is that diversity, for the sheer sake of diversity, should be mandated.

While DEI is not specifically mentioned in the opinions, the new standard established by the court would very likely make it easier for anti-DEI lawsuits to be filed on grounds of Title VII violation. In June 2023, a former Starbucks manager who alleged that she was fired for being white in the aftermath of a viral 2018 arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks was awarded $25 million. In the case of the former Starbucks manager, Shannon Phillips pointed out that she and another white manager were fired while the black district manager overseeing the store kept his job.

With the prospect of other cases similar to Phillips’, it seems that the new Title VII standard established by the Supreme Court may drive a future increase in anti-DEI lawsuits.