What is an adverse employment action?

On behalf of Sullivan Law Group APC posted in workplace discrimination on Friday, November 23, 2018.

As a California employee, you probably already know that your employer cannot fire you in retaliation for your reporting workplace discrimination to either it or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In fact, as the EEOC explains, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids your employer from taking any kind of adverse employment action against you whatsoever.

All types of adverse employment actions are a form of retaliatory discrimination, but some are considerably more obvious than others. For instance, it might not occur to you that all of the following constitute things your employer cannot do to you in retaliation for your reporting workplace discrimination:

  • Reduce or threaten to reduce your wages or salary
  • Reassign your current duties to someone else
  • Take away your supervisory duties
  • Excessively examine or monitor your work
  • Threaten to report you or any of your family members to immigration authorities
  • Criticize you in the media or in other public ways

Objective standard

“Adverse employment action” has no one overall definition. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is an objective standard by which to judge an employer’s actions against its employees. On the other hand, which precise acts rise to the level of an adverse employment action depends on the depends on each specific situation. For instance, if your employer does one of the following to you, the Court has held in previous cases that all of them constituted adverse employment actions in their particular situations:

  • Relocate an employee to another less favorable job site
  • Schedule an employee’s work or hours abusively
  • Surveil an employee while (s)he is at work
  • Sabotage an employee’s work
  • Assign an employee excessive work in relation to other employees with the same job title or pay grade
  • Refuse to invite a particular work team member to team luncheons

Your burden of proof in any adverse employment action case consists of showing by clear and convincing evidence that your employer engaged in some form of prohibited retaliatory action against you after you reported workplace discrimination.

This is general educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice.