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A friend has been a Supervisor for 2 years but was told in 'an informal discussion' with the owners and their lawyer yesterday that she's going to be demoted back to being a cashier as she's not good with the customers. She asked if there have been complaints but there haven't. The boss says they've told her on numerous occasions to improve over the last 2 years BUT they've never counselled her or giving her training in order to improve. She's been given 2 weeks but has been told that they will be signing the papers in 2 weeks because they know she won't improve. She's obviously extremely upset. Can the employer do this?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a legal question. – user8365 Feb 19 '15 at 19:23
  • I apologise then - can you please advise as to where I can get some input then please? – Yvette Feb 19 '15 at 19:24
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    From a lawyer. Legal questions need legal experts – Brian Feb 19 '15 at 19:33
  • Thanks Brian that much I do know BUT never having had this need before I was hoping that someone more informed could point me in the direction of a helpful website etc – Yvette Feb 19 '15 at 19:42
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    What country etc. are you in? – DJClayworth Feb 19 '15 at 23:10
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I'm not going to give you legal advice, but instead point you to some areas to investigate.

  1. In a sizable company, talk to HR about this. However I'm guessing that doesn't apply here, because your friend was told this by the owner.
  2. Absolutely make sure your friend gets this change in writing. If possible get them to explain any reasons and ask them to list any specific complaints or incidents, or get them to say in writing that there were none.
  3. The likely consequence of your friend refusing to accept this new arrangement is, of course, dismissal.
  4. In some jurisdictions a demotion without cause is tantamount to dismissal. Only a lawyer can advise whether this might be true in your case.
  5. If it turns out that legally your friend can be considered to have been dismissed, then that might mean that she gets unemployment benefits if she decides she doesn't want to stay as a cashier. Again, a lawyer or officer of the appropriate benefit department can probably help.
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    Also, even if you get the law behind your friend, consider that even successfully fighting the demotion or receiving compensation for it, the work atmosphere will easily become toxic. – HorusKol Feb 20 '15 at 0:28
  • @JoeStrazzere Depends on the jurisdiction. 'Constructive dismissal' is the term you are looking for. – DJClayworth May 27 '16 at 17:19
  • Constructive dismissal is any case where you have had substantial changes to your conditions of employment made against your will. IANAL but I'm pretty sure a demotion would count. – DJClayworth May 27 '16 at 17:35
  • In Germany there is something called a Änderungskündigung "change dismissal", which is the one of the only way to change your work contract for the worse. Examples include the workplace moving far away, your salary being reduced or being demoted. It is handled like a normal dismissal in all ways, e.g. you have all the same legal options to fight it. Major problem for the worker is that it is basically a termination with the offer of a new contract - so if you fight it and lose the termination stands but the offer of a new contract might not. – Erik May 30 '16 at 7:07
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Not a legal answer, but as you may expect, a promotion and a demotion are two sides to the same coin. In either case you do have the choice of refusing, in the demotion case though this is likely to lead to dismissal (although refusing a promotion can lead to the same outcome).

  • Where do you believe that a person has the right of refusing either? Barring a contract or union agreement, You have two choices: Accept the role you're placed in or resign. – Wesley Long Feb 19 '15 at 20:02
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    @WesleyLong I think that's exactly what was said. You can accept or decline, and declining a demotion is essentially a resignation. – thursdaysgeek Feb 19 '15 at 22:00
  • @thursdaysgeek - Sorry, read it 4 times now, and it doesn't come across that way to me. Maybe it's just me? – Wesley Long Feb 19 '15 at 23:01
  • @WesleyLong "though this is likely to lead to dismissal (although refusing a promotion can lead to the same outcome)." I think refusing a demotion will almost always result in a dismissal, but refusing a promotion isn't necessarily going to be the same case. By the way, a resignation is still a refusal of the promotion/demotion... – nhgrif Feb 19 '15 at 23:15
  • @nhgrif - I see where you're coming from, but the semantic difference between "likely" and "will" is pretty strong to me. I'm willing to write this off as "me on my own" at this point. I must just be weird. – Wesley Long Feb 20 '15 at 2:55

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