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Does Your Employer Have the Right to Demote You?

You likely know that it’s illegal to terminate people’s employment due to their race, religion, gender, disability and other protected statuses. You also can’t be fired as retaliation for reporting illegal activities or sexual harassment in the workplace. However, it’s also illegal to demote an employee for any of those reasons.

Of course, proving that either a demotion or termination was carried out for reasons forbidden under the law can be challenging. Most Arizona workers are “at-will” employees. That means that most people can be fired or demoted for essentially any reason besides the ones just discussed. Some people, however, have employment contracts that protect them from demotion and/or give them the opportunity to appeal a demotion.

A demotion can be deeply distressing emotionally, but also financially challenging. It often involves a reduction in salary or hours. It may involve going from a salaried position to an hourly one. You may lose perks such as eligibility for bonuses. Of course, you can also lose status among your colleagues — which can sometimes be as difficult to deal with, if not more so, than the economic changes.

In most cases, as noted, employers have a wide berth in making adjustments to their workforce for the good of the company. When they believe that people haven’t been performing up to par in their jobs, they may choose to move them to a position with less responsibility. Company reorganizations can lead to demotions as well.

If you believe you’ve been illegally demoted, your first step should be to go to human resources. There may be an appeal process or you may need to write an appeal letter yourself asking that the demotion be reconsidered. Be sure to have documentation of positive reviews and feedback to support your case.

If you aren’t able to get the decision overturned within the company and you have evidence or strong reason to believe that you were demoted for illegal reasons, you may want to consult with an Arizona employment attorney. He or she can discuss your situation with you and review any legal options that may be appropriate.

Source: The Balance Careers, “How to Handle a Wrongful Demotion,” Alison Doyle, accessed May 10, 2018