To have an employment discrimination claim, you must show that the 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 commonly found in case law that addresses employment discrimination claims. But, what does it actually mean?
In general, an adverse employment action is any action taken by your employer that adversely affects the terms, conditions, or privileges of your employment in a material manner.
Some employees make the mistake of assuming that they have to be fired or demoted to have an employment discrimination case. However, adverse employment action is broader than simply losing your job or not being hired for a specific position.
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, or when the repeated acts of harassment cause a high level of distress. If, for example, your employer does not allow you to complete certain training that you need to qualify for a promotion or obtain a raise, that could be considered adverse employment action, depending on this impacts your employment status and performance.
More minor actions that are considered trivial or just designed to make you upset or angry may not be considered adverse employment actions by themselves. Petty slights do not create an adverse action. But, if those slights are done repeatedly, or are condoned by management, and become severe and pervasive, this might create a hostile work environment which then amounts to adverse action.
If you believe you suffered an adverse employment action because of discrimination or retaliation, you have legal options. Learn more by setting up an appointment with a member of our team.