What is an adverse employment action, and why does it matter?

An employee typically needs to demonstrate that they experienced an “adverse employment action” to make a claim of employment discrimination.  An adverse employment action is a change in working conditions that is materially adverse. To be considered materially adverse, the change must be more significant than a minor inconvenience or a simple alteration of job duties. The employee must have an objective basis for demonstrating that the action is adverse, rather than merely a subjective feeling. This is important because an adverse employment action is typically necessary for employment law claims related to discrimination or retaliation, whether at the state or federal level. It’s worth noting that an adverse employment action is not required for claims of harassment.

What actions are considered adverse employment actions?

From most to least obvious:

  1. Firing
  2. Demotion
  3. Discipline
  4. Salary reduction
  5. Negative evaluation
  6. Hostile behavior directed toward an employee
  7. Negative job reference
  8. Refusing to provide a reference
  9. Informing an individual’s prospective employer about the individual’s protected activity
  10. Failure to hire

Here are examples of employment actions that courts have determined were not adverse employment actions:

  1. A rejection of reimbursement of expenses.
  2. Satisfactory ratings in an evaluation that are lower than a previous evaluation are not adverse when the employee receives a merit raise.

Next Tool Kit Article: Title VII – What Does It Prohibit? >>

<< Title VII – What Is It?

Return to Employment Law Tool Kit

The information herein is not legal advice. The information is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter discussed.  The above is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.