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Understanding adverse employment actions

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2019 | Workplace Discrimination |

As a Florida employee, you have the legal right to report the company for which you work to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you discover that someone in your company has committed or is in the process of committing an illegal act. If you choose to become a whistleblower, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects you against employer retaliation. 

Naturally, if your employer wrongfully terminates you after you report illegal activities, this constitutes retaliation. But wrongful termination represents only one of the numerous adverse employment actions the law prohibits. If your employer takes such action(s), you have the right to sue. 

Adverse employment action standard 

Unfortunately, neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any federal law has ever precisely defined “adverse employment action” or what constitutes one. Consequently, courts must proceed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the facts in each case constitute an adverse employment action. 

Despite the lack of a precise definition, SCOTUS has nevertheless deemed adverse employment action an objective standard by which to judge employers. Over the course of many lawsuits, SCOTUS declared that the following employer actions fell within the adverse employment action purview: 

  • Excessively monitoring an employee’s job performance 
  • Surveilling an employee 
  • Relocating an employee to another company site or location that is less desirable than the one where the employee originally worked 
  • Assigning more work to an employee than to other employees holding his or her same job title or description 
  • Refusing to invite an employee to lunches for a work team of which (s)he is a member 

Additional adverse employment action examples 

SCOTUS has likewise deemed the following to run afoul of the adverse employment action standard: 

  • Threatening to reduce an employee’s salary or wage or actually doing so 
  • Threatening to report an employee or his or her family members to immigration authorities or actually doing so 
  • Threatening to reassign an employee’s duties or actually doing so 
  • Threatening to take away an employee’s supervisory functions or actually doing so 
  • Criticizing an employee in public or in the media 

Bottom line: Only the provable precise action(s) your employer takes against you after you become a whistleblower determines whether you have a viable case.