What are adverse employment actions, and what happens if they end up being illegal? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Adverse Employment Actions?
Adverse employment actions are decisions that have a negative effect on an employee. Being fired is an adverse employment action; so is being demoted, transferred to a less-desirable position or location, or a denial of a leave request.
Are Adverse Employment Actions Always Legal?
It’s completely legal for your boss to fire you, demote you, transfer you or deny you leave – as long as your boss is doing so for the right reasons. For example, if you stop showing up to work, it’s okay for your boss to call you and tell you not to come back. If you set the break room on fire, delete everything off the company’s server, or come to work drunk, there’s a good chance that your boss can legally tell you to hit the road.
However, there are some instances in which it’s illegal for your boss to take an adverse employment action against you. Your employer cannot base its reasoning on your:
- National origin
- Genetic information
- Pregnancy status or associated conditions
If your employer takes an adverse employment action against you for one of these reasons, you may need to talk to a Glendale employment attorney about your situation – you could be entitled to compensation.
Related: What is discrimination?
What is an Example of Adverse Action?
Check out these three examples of legal adverse employment actions:
- Frank comes to work late every day, messes up his paperwork and never responds to email. As a result, very little work actually gets done. His boss legally fires him for being a terrible employee.
- Jan is employed as a dolphin trainer at a water park. She develops a back injury that prevents her from swimming with the dolphins in the water, and tells her employer that her condition is permanent. Because swimming with the dolphins in the water is a key component of her job, her employer legally fires her. (Yes, it would be nicer if the employer moved her to a different position – but it’s most likely legal to fire her because she can no longer perform the functions of the job.)
- A company is downsizing and can no longer afford to pay half its workers. It cuts out several job positions and lays off the workers who filled them. This is generally legal.
Check out these three examples of potentially illegal adverse employment actions:
- Megan tells her supervisor that her coworker is stealing products from the storage room. Megan’s boss happens to be dating the coworker accused of stealing, and she fires Megan so the story doesn’t go any higher. Megan engaged in a whistleblowing action and was then fired, which is typically illegal.
- Terry works as a customer-facing representative in a big box store. His boss says, “People don’t want to see black customer service representatives, so I’m moving you to the warehouse.” He tells Terry that the next day, he’ll be reporting to a new manager in the warehouse. Moving Terry to another position because of the color of his skin is illegal.
- Amy is 57 years old and is up for promotion. Her boss instead promotes 25-year-old Max to the position – and Max has less experience and fewer credentials than Amy does. Amy’s boss tells her, “Max has a lot of potential, and he’ll be with the company so much longer than you will. He’s also more familiar with technology – his generation grew up with it. That’s why I couldn’t promote you.” This is an example of unlawful age discrimination.
Not all cases of illegal adverse employment actions are this clear-cut. In fact, most aren’t; it turns out that most employers won’t come right out and say that they’ve made an illegal adverse employment decision. If you suspect that your employer has made an adverse employment decision against you without legal justification, you should talk to an attorney.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About an Adverse Employment Action?
If you think that your employer has discriminated against you and that the discrimination resulted in an adverse employment action, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 818-230-8380 now for a free consultation – or, if it’s easier, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you right away.