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Adverse Employment Action under Title VII

What Is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, (“Title VII”) protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

There are many different bases for bringing a claim under Title VII, including but not limited to,

  • Disparate treatment
  • Discriminatory termination
  • Discriminatory failure to promote
  • Discriminatory failure to hire
  • Retaliation

In disparate treatment claims, an employee typically must demonstrate that the employer subjected her to an adverse employment action.

What is an Adverse Employment Action?

An employment action is “adverse” for purposes of establishing Title VII claims if the action is “objectively serious and tangible enough to alter the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. . . .”

Transfer or Reassignments

Federal courts have held that a transfer or reassignment can constitute an adverse employment action if the impacts of the same are objectively serious and result in tangible adversity.

A lateral transfer or relocation typically does not rise to the level of an adverse employment action. The same is true even if the transfer or relocation results in an increased commute to and from work. Without more, a longer commute is not objectively serious and tangible enough to meet the threshold of substantiality.

Changes in Work Schedules

Similarly, a change in schedules does not constitute an adverse employment action if it is not objectively serious and does not result in tangible adversity. Unlike a lateral transfer, schedule changes can sometimes result in reduced working hours, which may rise to the level of an adverse employment action.

However, like lateral transfers, a schedule change resulting in an increase in childcare costs does not constitute an adverse employment action. Although increased childcare costs are inconvenient, they are typically not objectively serious and tangible enough to meet the substantiality threshold.

How Do I Determine If I Have a Claim?

Whether an employer’s action against an employee rises to the level of “adverse employment action” for purposes of a Title VII claim is a question of fact, which requires the trier of fact to determine whether, as a result of the employer’s action, the employee suffered an objectively serious and tangible harm.

If you feel your rights under Title VII have been violated, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Wrady Michel & King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you.