Discrimination occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against an employee or applicant because of their protected characteristic (or because an employer believes that employee is in a protected category).
“Because of” does not mean that a protected characteristic is the only reason that an employer took an adverse action against an employee. Rather, it means it is unlawful for a protected characteristic to be a substantial motivating factor or reason that contributes to an employer’s decision to take adverse action against an employee or applicant.
Adverse actions include ultimate employment actions such as termination, demotion or failure to hire. However, adverse actions are not limited to ultimate employment actions, and do include conduct which materially and adversely affects the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, and may include individual actions or a pattern of actions and conduct. For example, transferring an employee to a less desirable location or shift, poor performance reviews or write-ups and reprimands, or other actions that would impact an employee’s opportunity for promotion or advancement may be adverse actions.