Federal Employment Adverse Action Definition

The federal authority on the definition of adverse employment action varies from federal circuit to circuit. Most circuits agree that an adverse employment action requires "a materially adverse change in the terms of . . . employment." (Kocsis v. Multi-Care Management, Inc. (6th Cir. 1996) 97 F.3d 876, 885.)

The inquiry as to whether an employment action is adverse requires a case-by-case determination based upon objective evidence. (Blackie v. State of Me. (1st Cir. 1996) 75 F.3d 716, 725.)

As the First Circuit observed in Blackie, "work places are rarely idyllic retreats, and the mere fact that an employee is displeased by an employer's act or omission does not elevate that act or omission to the level of a materially adverse employment action." (Ibid.)

If every minor change in working conditions or trivial action were a materially adverse action then any "action that an irritable, chip-on-the-shoulder employee did not like would form the basis of a discrimination suit." (Williams v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (7th Cir. 1996) 85 F.3d 270, 274.)