Classifications of Employment
How to Properly Handle a Wrongful Demotion
How to Properly Handle a Wrongful Demotion

How to Properly Handle a Wrongful Demotion

When a wrongful demotion occurs, it typically represents retaliation – an employer’s revenge for an employment complaint that involved whistleblowing or was based on harassment. If an employee is unfairly demoted, they should contact a lawyer before filing a claim or talking to a Human Resources representative.

At-Will Demotions

If the employer-employee relationship is at-will, or the employment relationship does not depend on a contract, an employer can demote or terminate an employer for a variety of reasons – as long as their reason for the demotion is not retaliatory or discriminatory in nature. 

For example, if an employee does not perform their job as requested, is frequently late or absent, or endangers workers in the company, the employer can demote or fire the employee. 

Nevertheless, the situation may become complicated, as an employer, by law, can change the job duties of an employee or their position or even reduce their pay. This may be done through a company reorganization.

The Safety Net Provided by Employment Contracts

Employees who have signed employment agreements usually can avoid demotion unless specific stipulations in the contract apply. If a demotion occurs, in this situation, the employee may appeal the decision. Certain terms and conditions in an employment contract should be clearly outlined to prevent this type of internal dispute from taking place.

It is normally unlawful for an employer to demote an employee if the action changes the terms of an employment agreement. This activity may constitute a breach of the contract. This may provide the employee with the grounds to resign and claim constructive dismissal (or forced resignation).

Discrimination-Based Demotions

People are protected from unfair demotions that are based on race, religion, age, disability, gender, or other protected classes. 

Whistleblowing and Retaliation

Whistleblowing sometimes leads to a wrongful demotion if an employee reports an employer’s unethical or fraudulent activities or takes part in a similar investigation. Whistleblowing may also include reporting a safety violation – either in-house, to OSHA, or to another governmental entity.

Appealing a Demotion in the Workplace

Demotions that prove unlawful may be appealed. Even if the employee is not protected lawfully against the action, they may still report their grievance to their company’s human resource (HR) department.

Employees who believe that a demotion is unfair should first speak to an employment lawyer about their situation. They can get the advice they need to speak to the HR department at their company or see what other steps they need to take.

An appeal to a demotion can have a negative effect on a company and, therefore, may lead to a reversal of the decision if an employee retains legal help.

Making a Request to Appeal

You may be able to manage the matter through the HR department without taking further legal action. In this case, your appeal will go through your company’s HR representative. This process includes an interview, review, and investigation. 

An employee may also write an appeal letter to the HR representative to review the demotion decision. Again, to make sure that the matter is handled properly, it’s best to get a lawyer’s advice.

Reviewing Company Policy

To understand the reason for a demotion, an employee may find the answer in their company’s employee handbook. An employee handbook can explain why some demotions may happen. If the supervisor is following specific steps, the book will explain the process. It may also reveal how certain policies guide employee performance.

For example, policies may be in place that back demotions based on regularly poor performance, absences, and tardiness.

An Unlawful Demotion and Its Impact

An employer or supervisor who engages in harassment or discrimination and who demotes an employee can trigger other issues. For example, a demotion can hurt an employee’s professional reputation. It can lead to many missed opportunities and pain and suffering.

Retaliation for whistleblowing may lead to serious penalties for a company and employer. To handle these controversies, it’s important that the employee gather as much evidence as possible while still working at a company.  

Sharing this information with an experienced attorney can mean the difference between ongoing employment problems and an equitable outcome. In civil matters, a lawyer can frequently resolve the issue outside a courtroom or mediate the claim.

Contact Minnis & Smallets to File a Wrongful Demotion Claim

Get in touch with a lawyer with Minnis & Smallet to file a wrongful demotion claim. Contacting an attorney is the best move to make when an employee’s professional reputation is at stake.

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