Monday, February 28, 2011

What is a Tangible Employment Action?

This is one of the posts I like to reprint every so often because tangible employment actions are an everyday part of the business process and are an easy way to go after employees! Tangible employment actions can be made to appear legitimate, even when they are retaliatory or discriminatory. Pretexts are often used to justify such actions. And, that's where the battle to show the truth comes in.

Most Black people are not referred to as a “nig_er” in today’s American workplace. Yes, this vicious name-calling does still happen. But, people are savvy these days and have gained an understanding that they need to go deep, deep, deep undercover when they want to get their racism on. Because of how covert racism has become, it’s become harder to prove there are disparities on a job. It’s also difficult to prove active racism, an offensive work environment, discrimination, racially-based harassment or retaliation.

So, how do you set about proving there are issues on your job? Well, think of tangible employment actions. According to the EEOC, a tangible employment action is a significant and negative change in your employment status. Unfulfilled threats do not qualify.

Tangible employment actions include:

--hiring and firing;
--promotion and failure to promote;
--undesirable reassignment;
--a decision causing a significant change in your benefits;
--salary decisions/changes; and
--work assignments.

Always think about tangible employment actions when you make a decision to complain (internally or externally). You must show the professional impact of employment decisions on your career. For instance, a tangible employment action could be shown in an employee who was scheduled for a promotion, until major components of their job were stripped out of their daily responsibilities—without cause. As a result of this employment decision, this person was deemed unqualified for the promotion (which was likely the motive for the employment decision).

A Black employee complaining about a sensitive racial issue might find themselves accused of improper behavior, related to something else, and end up demoted or transferred to a hard to reach work location or may be asked to do lower-level assignments that are not a part of their job. This tangible employment action could be proven to be retaliatory.

An employee could be fired for accusing a manager or coworker of race-based abuses. This is also an example of a tangible employment action--a significant and negative change in your employment status.

Regarding salary, title, and benefits, it doesn’t matter if you are "allowed" to keep your salary, title or benefits after a tangible employment action. If an employment decision represents a significant change in your employment status, it may qualify as a tangible employment action.



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