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What is an “adverse action?”

Federal and state laws protect workers from retaliation if they file a complaint or become a whistleblower. Far too often, however, workers who assert their rights are retaliated against.

It’s important to not only know your rights, but to know the legal terms for when and how they are being violated. One of the most important is the term “adverse action.” If you have filed a complaint with your employer, especially if it is the federal government, you should know what actions they cannot take against you.

Types of adverse action

In general, an adverse action is anything which changes your employment situation in a negative way. If it comes immediately after a complaint or file a notification as a whistleblower the situation is escalating. Workers who assert their rights are protected from adverse actions, which include:

  • Reducing or threatening to reduce your salary
  • Placing you on suspension
  • Reassigning you to a new position in a less favorable location

Anything which changes your employment status that you did not request can be considered an adverse action. This can include unintended negative actions, such as relocating you in an effort to “separate” you from the person you are complaining about.

Who is protected

It’s not just those who file a complaint or blow the whistle who are protected, it’s also everyone that investigates the claim who is protected.

It does not matter whether your complaint is sustained or not, either. Your employer cannot take action against you even if your claim is found to not have merit.

Know your rights

If you feel that there has been an adverse action taken against you by your employer, you need to understand your rights. There are laws that protect you, and federal workers in particular have many rights against retaliation.

It is important to at least consult with an employment attorney if your workplace is becoming hostile. The sooner this can take place, the better, as adverse actions often continue to worsen and you could be in danger of losing your employment altogether.

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