What is an “adverse employment action” in the context of discrimination cases?

Do you feel that you have been retaliated against in the workplace because you filed a claim for discrimination? In order to establish a claim for retaliation, you must show that you have suffered a materially adverse employment action. In other words, you were fired, denied a promotion, demoted, or you saw a decrease in your pay. Failure to get a certain job assignment or a more favorable office space may not be sufficient to bring a claim for retaliation.

In a 2010 decision, Rebecca Lockridge v. University of Maine System, the First Circuit Court of Appeals examined whether failing to obtain an open position at a more favorable office location was retaliatory when the position was denied to a woman who previously filed a claim for discrimination.  The Court held that to be materially adverse, the action must be one that could dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. In other words, would the employer’s conduct directed towards the employee who filed a discrimination claim be sufficient to prevent other employees from bringing a discrimination claim on their own behalf if they are discriminated against.

Under previous precedent, disadvantageous transfers or assignments were clearly held to be an adverse employment actions.  In another case, which upheld a charge of retaliation, a court held that a police officer’s transfer to a remote and solitary duty site for an unusually long period of time constituted a materially adverse employment action since it was regarded as punishment.

The key to the Lockridge decision is that other similarly-situated individuals in the office with seniority were also in the same position as the plaintiff. Therefore, the denial left the plaintiff in no worse position than her similarly-situated colleagues.

If you believe you have been retaliated against because you filed a claim for discrimination, please contact us for a consultation.

One Response to What is an “adverse employment action” in the context of discrimination cases?

  1. Pingback: How To Prove and Establish Employment Discrimination | Zawarski Law

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