Understanding Adverse Employment Actions

Understanding Adverse Employment Actions

When you participate in legally protected activities at work, Federal law prohibits your employer from retaliating against you. In other words, your employer cannot punish you. Some employers nevertheless seek to take retaliatory actions against employees who blow the whistle.


Whistleblowers are a protected class of employees. You become a whistleblower when you report illegal activities on the part of your employer. Not surprisingly, this can get you in trouble with your employer, who may well attempt to take out his or her anger and frustration against you by means of what is called an adverse employment action. Fortunately, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 protects you and prohibits your employer from taking such actions against you.

No Precise Definition

Unfortunately, no statute or court decision has ever precisely defined what constitutes an adverse employment action. Instead, courts must go on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the specific retaliatory action(s) an employer took against a whistleblowing employee rose to the level of adverse employment action. Consequently, you likely will need to contact an employer retaliation attorney Florida for advice.

Blatant Adverse Employment Actions

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the following are adverse employment actions your employer cannot take against you once you become a whistleblower:

  • Firing you
  • Demoting you
  • Cutting the amount of your salary or wage
  • Relocating you to a less desirable work location
  • Insisting that you do more work than that assigned to coworkers whose job descriptions or classifications match yours

More Subtle Actions

Since your employer already knows the major types of adverse employment actions (s)he cannot take against you for whistleblowing, (s)he may attempt to retaliate against you in a more subtle manner. These are the situations in which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and possibly even the Supreme Court, must be extra vigilant when listening to your complaint so as to ferret out the retaliatory intent behind your employer’s actions. For instance, the Supreme Court has determined such things as rescinding an employee’s supervisory authority and/or threatening to report him, her or a family member to immigration authorities to be forms of adverse employment actions.