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?
I'm not going to give you legal advice, but instead point you to some areas to investigate.
- 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.
- 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.
- The likely consequence of your friend refusing to accept this new arrangement is, of course, dismissal.
- In some jurisdictions a demotion without cause is tantamount to dismissal. Only a lawyer can advise whether this might be true in your case.
- 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.
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).