Monday, November 16, 2009

Tangible Employment Actions and Your Salary and Benefits: Part I

Workplace harassment is defined by law as behavior that, while offensive, is extremely serious because it changes the conditions of your employment or creates a hostile work environment. In regard to the law, for something to change the conditions of your employment, the “something” must be a tangible employment action. A tangible employment action is any significant change in your employment status. It’s an action that has a negative impact on your work environment, job function or career.

A tangible employment action isn't lip service. A tangible employment would be:

--a demotion;
--a suspension;
--being stripped of your staff;
--being denied a promotion with no basis;
--receiving a pay cut under false pretenses;
--being transferred to a menial job;
--being transferred to a remote location or being transferred to a hard to reach location (making it difficult to get to and from work) or being isolated from other staff; or
--being subjected to a hostile work environment that is so offensive and persistent that you can’t perform your job.

Some employers try to get all Slick Willie with these actions. So, sometimes they won’t take away an employee’s salary or benefits. Then, they’ll argue that there isn’t a really significant change in job status/no significant penalty. But, that argument doesn’t fly because tangible employment actions aren’t considered based on whether or not an employee retains the same salary or benefits. So, if there is a significant and negative change to your job—even with the retention of pay and benefits—you can argue that you were hit with a tangible employment action.

In my case, I was denied a promotion without basis—except racism and retaliation. I kept my salary and benefits. I filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights (OHR). My employer responded to OHR that they didn’t change my salary, title, etc. and used that to try to prove that everything was legitimate that happened to me. They didn’t know that I knew they were full of sh*t and that I could argue such based on the fact that I knew that tangible employment actions are not linked to retaining salary, benefits, etc.!

Anyway, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, tangible employment actions:

--occur when a supervisor uses the official powers of the company to take action(s) against an employee;
--are official acts of the company;
--are often documented in company records;
--often have the official approval of the company and its internal processes;
--often cause financial harm; and
--generally, can only be caused by a supervisor or other agent of your company, since a coworker just doesn’t have the power to bring about a significant, negative change in another employee’s employment status or job responsibilities.

That's the background. Tomorrow, I'll share tips for fighting back against tangible employment actions.


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