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Employment Discriminations Basics: What Is “Adverse Employment Action”?

Posted on: March 5th, 2022 by

To have an employment discrimination claim, you must show that the illegal discrimination you are claiming led to an “adverse employment action.” This very specific language can be found in both federal and state law. It is also very commonly found in case law that addresses employment discrimination claims. But, what does it actually mean?

What is Adverse Employment Action?

In general, adverse employment action is an action taken by your employer that negatively and adversely impacts you as an employee. It includes any action that adversely affects the terms, conditions, or privileges of your employment. But it does not include trivial matters such as an insult or minor counseling that has no other adverse effect on your work status.

Some employees make the mistake of assuming that they have to be fired or demoted to have an employment discrimination case. An adverse employment action may also include a suspension, denial of a raise, a transfer to another position that might be considered as demeaning even if your pay remains the same, or being subjected to a hostile work environment.

Examples of Adverse Employment Action

It is perhaps easiest to think about what adverse employment action means through examples. Below are just a few examples of actions that your employer might take that could be considered adverse employment action.

Harassment can rise to the level of adverse employment action in some situations, as well.

Adverse employment action might also include conduct that will impair your job performance (so you cannot do your job as well), or it decreases your potential for raises or advancement in the company. If, for example, your employer does not allow you to complete certain training that you need to qualify for a promotion, that could be considered adverse employment action, even if they do not deny you the promotion itself.

More minor actions that are considered trivial or merely make you upset or angry might not be considered adverse employment actions. For example, if the workers on your shift take turns doing an undesirable job, simply asking you to do the undesirable job two days in a role likely is not considered adverse employment action. Petty insults or trivial acts that are not severe or pervasive may not be considered an adverse action unless it creates what the law would recognize as a hostile work environment.

Get Help with Your Employment Discrimination Case

If you believe you suffered adverse employment action because of discrimination, you have legal options. Learn more by setting up an appointment with a member of our team.