Second Circuit rejects EEOC’s expansive interpretation of Title VII’s “limit, segregate, or classify” clause

Title VII is the nation’s leading anti-discrimination law. Most Title VII cases involve its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, etc. Many involve its anti-retaliation provision. But, few involve a clause in Title VII that says employers may not “limit, segregate, or classify” employees based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

In this case the EEOC argued that the employer did just that when it alleged transferred the African-American sales manager from its retail store that served largely Hispanic customers.

The employer responded that, even if it had, the transfer did not hurt the sales manager; it did not cause an adverse employment action, like a cut in pay, demotion, termination, etc. The EEOC responded that it didn’t matter. The EEOC argued that any limitation, segregation or classification was prohibited, even if it caused no harm to the plaintiff.

The court rejected both arguments. The court agreed with the EEOC that an adverse employment action was not required, but it agreed with the employer that the EEOC had to prove the transfer in some way “deprived or even tended to deprive him of any employment opportunity or otherwise adversely affected his employment status” (emphasis in original).

Source: EEOC v. AutoZone, Inc., — F.3d —, case no. 15-3201 (6/20/17).