What qualifies as “Adverse Action”?

September 17, 2013

The temptation for managers or employers is to change an employee’s job function, schedule, or compensation as a means of either motivated the employee or attempting to get the employee to resign is a flawed approach to management, but one that is surprisingly common.

Employer conduct deemed to be adverse can come in a variety of forms, but the primary assessment by courts is review whether or not the conduct would lead a reasonable employee to complain of discrimination or resign.

Earlier this year the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled as such and provided some clarity to this issue.

Where the employer claimed the employee only experienced “petty slights, minor annoyances and a simple lack of good manners”, and not adverse actions from the employer, the appeals court disagreed on three points:
• The employee was told during a disciplinary meeting she would be watched “very, very closely”, and would “ruin her career in a very public way” if she “did not stop pursuing the things she was pursuing”.
• Her benchmark achievements for promotion and salary increase were changed without cause.
• Her supervisors tried to replace her while she was on a three month leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

After the appeals court ruling, the employee in this case remained on the job without any disciplinary action.

As demonstrated above, what may seem like a reasonable action by one employer may be viewed entirely differently by the employee and subsequently, the appropriate court. This issue underscores EctoHR’s focus on direct feedback to employees, managing and coaching employees effectively, and taking proactive and legal action to terminate when appropriate.

EctoHR, Inc. is here for your company
EctoHR, Inc.’s staff of professionals is ready to assist your company with all aspects of HR, including management issues and corrective action. Contact a team member at EctoHR by calling 810.534.0170, or by email to hr@ectohr.com.

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