Call The Right Attorney™
No Fee Guarantee

What does adverse employment action mean?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: An adverse employment action is a specific level of negative conduct taken by an employer against an employee to satisfy the elements of an employment claim. Black’s law dictionary defines adverse employment action to mean: “An employer’s decision that substantially and negatively affects an employee’s job, such as a termination, demotion, or pay cut.” An adverse employment action is an element of a claim to prove unlawful discrimination based race/color, religion, gender/sex (including pregnancy and LGBTQ+ status), national origin, age, or disability.

What is an adverse action for discrimination claims?

Best Employment Discrimination Lawyer Answer: For the purpose of discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), and Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”), an adverse employment action must be a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment that is more disruptive than a mere inconvenience or slight alteration of job responsibilities. “While adverse employment actions extend beyond readily quantifiable losses, not everything that makes an employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action.” Smart v. Ball State Univ., 89 F.3d 437, 441 (7th Cir. 1996).

What are examples of adverse employment actions in discrimination cases?

Best Employees’ Rights Attorney Answer: Because these discrimination statutes use a “flexible, practical approach, we have emphasized that an adverse employment action need not be quantifiable in terms of pay or benefits.” Atanus v. Perry, 520 F.3d 662, 677 (7th Cir. 2008). The obvious examples of an adverse employment action for discrimination cases include wrongful termination, failure to hire, demotion, removal of significant responsibilities, failure to promote, cutting an employee’s pay, benefits, or other financial benefits. Loss of pay as an adverse employment action is not limited to just a cut in salary, but may come from a boss or manager limiting the amount or quality of sales leads are given to an employee. Similarly, denying an employee access to overtime opportunities has been considered an adverse employment action. Lewis v. City of Chicago, 496 F.3d 645, 653–54 (7th Cir.2007). An adverse employment action can be found in discrimination cases where a manager or supervisor reduces an employee’s long-term career prospects “by pre-venting him from using the skills in which he is trained and experienced, so that the skills are likely to atrophy, and his career is likely to be stunted.” Herrnreiter v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 315 F.3d 742, 744 (7th Cir. 2002). Likewise, an employer will have taken an adverse employment action where it changes “the conditions in which [an employee] works … in a way that subjects him to a humiliating, degrading, unsafe, unhealthful, or otherwise significantly negative alteration in his workplace environment.” Id. An employee’s “exclusion from critical meetings over a three or four month period might well be materially adverse.” Sanders v. New York City Hum. Res. Admin., 361 F.3d 749, 756 (2d Cir. 2004). Courts have held that “withdrawing an employee’s supervisory duties constitutes an adverse employment action.” Stewart v. Ashcroft, 352 F.3d 422, 427 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Some courts have held that a transfer resulting in a significant “increased commute is sufficient to establish an adverse employment action under Title VII” while other court have rejected this proposition. Supinger v. Virginia, 167 F. Supp. 3d 795, 808 (W.D. Va. 2016) ; see also Darnell v. Campbell County Fiscal Court, 731 F.Supp. 1309 (E.D.Ky.1990), aff’d, 924 F.2d 1057 (6th Cir.1991). And in Threat v. City of Cleveland, Ohio, 6 F.4th 672, 677 (6th Cir. 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held: “Do discriminatory shift changes based on race violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? We think so.”
However, this is not an exhaustive list. Each case should be looked at individually by a qualified employment law attorney to help you evaluate your case.

Take the recent case of Larson v. Idaho State University, 2022 WL 1806302, at *8 (D. Idaho June 2, 2022), in which Steve Larson started working for Idaho State University (“ISU”) in 1997 as a clinical instructor/program coordinator for ISU’s College of Technology, Energy Systems Technology & Education Center (“ESTEC”). Larson’s teaching assignments had always been limited to first year math courses, ISU had never assigned him advanced mathematics courses, such as calculus or pre-calculus. ISU never rated the employee any lower than “meets expectations,” and it rated him “above expectations” starting in 2011 through his final review.

Larson developed a severe low back injury that resulted in a multi-level laminectomy as well as fusion in his lumbar spine. Subsequently, Larson developed adjacent disc disease which caused bi-lateral neuropathy in his lower extremities. For the purpose of the employer’s motion for summary judgment to have the case dismissed, it is undisputed that Larson was disabled under the ADA.

The primary dispute at issue was whether the ISU had taken an adverse employment action against Larson by forcing him to take a semester off recruiting and then setting him up to fail by assigning him to teach classes that he was not qualified to teach. The semester recruiting full time included physical requirements needed to lift, haul, and manipulate the heavy totes, which was made even more difficult by Larson’s disability. Larson further presented evidence that his boss assigned “him the most difficult math course in the curriculum, one which he had never taught, and which [the boss] knew he was unqualified to teach, without even offering him any means of becoming qualified.”

The United States District Court for the District of Idaho denied the employer’s motion to dismiss the case by way of summary judgment and held:

The Ninth Circuit has held that “assigning more, or more burdensome, work responsibilities, is an adverse employment action.” Davis v. Team Elec. Co., 520 F.3d 1080, 1089 (9th Cir. 2008). Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit has found “that a wide array of disadvantageous changes in the workplace constitute adverse employment actions.” Id. at 1240. Plaintiff argues that his assignment to recruiting duties and to teach ESET 0140 both constitute adverse action. The parties dispute whether those assignments were actually more burdensome or disadvantageous. ISU maintains that Larson was subject to the same assignments as others, and that those assignments were part of the usual responsibilities for Larson’s position. Larson, on the other hand, asserts that the assignments were deliberate attempts to make his employment more difficult. The Court finds that summary judgment, based on the facts of this case, is inappropriate. Genuine disputes of material facts regarding the actions ISU took against Plaintiff remain and are critical to the resolution of the matter.

Id. at * 7.

How do I sue my employer for discriminating against me?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against or harassed based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?) Call our lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Toledo, Cincinnati and Raleigh to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.


This employment discrimination law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this wrongful termination page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I sue for race discrimination at work”, “What should I do if I’m being discriminated against because I’m a Black woman,” “My manager wrongfully fired me today because of my religion” or “I need the best employment lawyer to sue the company that I work for”, it would be best for to contact an experienced attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

"" "