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In Ohio, to prevail on an employment discrimination claim or a retaliation claim, the employee must demonstrate that he or she suffered what is known as an “adverse employment action.” But one of the questions we as attorneys get asked a lot is what exactly constitutes an adverse employment action? The case law in Ohio is instructive on this point.

In 1996, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff claiming employment discrimination must show that he or she suffered “a materially adverse change in the terms of her employment.” Kocsis v. Multi-Care Management Inc., 97 F.3d 876, 885 (6th Cir. 1996). The court cautioned however, that a “mere inconvenience or an alteration of job responsibilities” or a “bruised ego” does not rise to the level of an adverse employment action. Id. at 886.

Kocsis court further held that “reassignments without salary or work hour changes do not ordinarily constitute adverse employment decisions in employment discrimination claims.” Id. at 885. A reassignment without salary or work hour changes, however, may be an adverse employment action if it constitutes a demotion evidenced by “a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, significantly diminished material responsibilities, or other indices that might be unique to a particular situation.” Id. at 886.

In 2004, the Sixth Circuit, in Smith v. City of Salem, Ohio, 378 F.3d 566, 575-76 (6th Cir. 2004),held that common “[e]xamples of adverse employment actions include firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, a material loss of benefits, suspensions, and other indices unique to a particular situation.”

Later that same year, the Sixth Circuit, relying on Kocsis’ definition of “adverse employment action,” held that the suspension of an employee without pay, followed thirty-seven days later by a reinstatement with back pay, and transferring an employee from her forklift operator job to a standard track laborer job both constituted adverse employment actions. White v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe R. Co. 364 F.3d 789 (6th Cir. 2004).

In the end, each situation is unique and it is always best to call the right attorney for advice.

If you even think that your employment rights have been violated or that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.


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