Denial of Transfer Did Not Amount to an “Adverse Employment Action”

In Gomez v. Stonybrook Univ., 14-cv-7219, 2016 WL 1039539 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 2016), report and recommendation adopted, 2016 WL 1045536 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 15, 2016), the court held that plaintiff did not suffer an “adverse employment action” and hence dismissed her discrimination claim. (The below text is taken from the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation.)

This case illustrates that not every action taken against an employee will give rise to an actionable claim of unlawful discrimination.

Here is the law:

Under an employment discrimination claim, “[a] plaintiff sustains an adverse employment action if he or she endures a materially adverse change in the terms and conditions of employment. An adverse employment action is one which is more disruptive than a mere inconvenience or an alteration of job responsibilities. … Several examples of materially adverse changes include, termination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, significantly diminished material responsibilities, … a disproportionately heavy workload, the failure to promote, and the loss of career advancement. Materially adverse changes can also arise from other indices unique to a particular situation. … By contrast, many actions by an employer do not rise to the level of adverse employment actions.

Applying the law, the court held:

Whether plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action is a close question. While the complaint fails to allege that plaintiff has endured types of events that commonly constitute material adverse changes—termination, demotion, change in job title, change in job responsibilities, etc.—rather, plaintiff has alleged that SBU denied her a transfer. … Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the denial of transfer, she faced damages from the vandalism to her car, flared-up fibromyalgia, and she has been put in fear from Karen Thomas such that she needs to be escorted to the restroom. However, none of the actions against the plaintiff—taken individually or in the aggregate—demonstrate that she suffered a materially significant disadvantage in the working conditions of the aggrieved employee, such as a change in prestige, modernity, training opportunity, job security, or some other indicator of desirability.

The court did, however, find that plaintiff sufficiently pled retaliation, by alleging attempts to dissuade her from bringing her discrimination complaint immediately following her protected activity.

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