Under the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer may not discriminate against an employee who opposes a discriminatory practice or cooperates with an investigation or proceeding related to workplace discrimination. In order to state a retaliation claim under Title VII, courts often require an employee to establish, among other things, that her employer took a “materially adverse action” against her. Exactly what constitutes a “materially adverse action” is sometimes unclear. Recently, in Cooper v. Connecticut Department of Corrections
, a Connecticut federal court held that placing an employee on paid leave does not constitute a materially adverse action necessary to establish a claim of retaliation.
The employer in this case placed an employee on a paid leave because it believed that he threatened workplace violence. The employee remained on paid leave for two months while he underwent tests to determine whether he was fit to return to work. He eventually returned to his prior position, maintaining his previous title, responsibilities and salary.
The Court focused on the fact that the employer followed pre-existing disciplinary policies included in a collective bargaining agreement and found that the employee did not suffer a materially adverse change in terms and conditions of his employment.
This decision is good news for employers and suggests that employers should develop and implement consistent policies for disciplining employees.