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What is a Demotion?

A demotion can occur when an employee's performance is not satisfactory.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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A demotion is a reduction in rank, often accompanied with a lower pay status. There are many situations in which one might occur; any kind of ranked system like a police department or military, for example, uses demotions as a disciplinary tool, while some employees are at risk due to reorganization or substandard work. Most people view a demotion as a punishment, since it implies that the individual was incapable of performing at a higher rank. Its opposite is a promotion, an elevation in rank or status.

Most commonly, a demotion occurs when someone fails to perform as expected. This failure may not be severe enough to be punished with employment termination, but it does require a rethinking of the employee's job responsibilities and functions. When someone is demoted, he or she may stay in the same a department or be moved outside it, depending on company needs. Losing position within in a department can be awkward, as the employee's coworkers will be well aware of his or her fall from grace.

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In other cases, the victim is purely innocent. Some companies are forced to change the ranks of some employees when they downsize or reorganize. This is common with mergers, when staff suddenly become redundant due to the nature of the merger. In this case, the company may want to retain the employee because he or she is valuable, but it must move the employee to another department. In most cases, the company tries to keep the move temporary, and it will often endeavor to keep the rate of pay the same as well.

Employees who are at risk of demotion due to poor performance usually have ample warning. Poor performance may be indicated in employment reviews, for example, with employers clearly outlining the employee's faults and the ways in which he or she may improve. Many reprimands and warnings are issued, and employees are often reminded that enforcement of workplace policy may include a loss of position, in cases where it is warranted.

Sometimes, an employee may work his or her way back up after a demotion. This is more common when a employee demonstrates an ability and desire to improve, especially if he or she is willing to work on major issues. In other instances, the new position is considered permanent, and it may in some cases be used to force an employee who cannot be legally fired into quitting. This tactic is common with lackluster employees who do not violate workplace policy outright, but they rather skirt the line of mediocrity, weighing down those around them.

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Discuss this Article

anon286078
Post 12

I got demoted in front of another employee. Is this legal?

At a public school board meeting in front of the public and a reporter, the principal of our school answered questions about my demotion, including that I was demoted and my new job description. I was not there. Isn't this a violation of my right to privacy?

anon278152
Post 11

Is it legal if you refuse to train for a promotion if you don't feel you can do it? Now your manager says you have to train someone else for your main accounting job not the supervising part and I may be demoted?

anon262179
Post 10

If I am a non-exempt employee who never signed any paperwork agreeing to work overtime, can I be punished for refusing to work overtime, when I was asked to do so on the spot and without prior notice?

anon255743
Post 9

I had a couple of situations at my employment. I was offered a promotion which lasted approximately two weeks, and management decided I should be put back to my original position. The person I trained to do my original position took my promotion. The company never paid me the differential, and now the company just fired a co-worker and now want me to do that with the same pay, and there is more responsibility, including handling company money, but due to my past experiences, I feel I am being taking advantage of.

I am currently doing my job and co-worker's, but I am leaning towards not accepting the offer. I feel I am not wrong but at the same time, not wanting to step on toes. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

anon241314
Post 8

Is it legal for an employer to demote you without telling you?

anon240833
Post 7

I was only demoted last week. While I was off duty, I got a call telling me I was being demoted and she has been promoted. I was so surprised, and the next morning I found it exactly like that.

I went to ask my boss, and she told me, "It's just a rotation." Because I was not satisfied I went to hr office then they told me they are still waiting for that note from my boss. Is this fair?

anon41124
Post 6

My company has reduced my salary by $1,000 per month and reduced me to a lead position, they also laid 4 employees off. They also asked a supervisor if she wanted to transfer to other facility, she declined and was laid off. I was not given the oppportnity to be transfered. My duties are the same as when I was a supervisor in the warehouse. The reason upper management gave to me was the work flow was reduced at my facility. I understand this, but at another warehouse empoyees were hired and supervisors positions where filled. The new budget also has a $500 buffer, which I believe came from my salary. I am currenty trying to appeal this issue with upper management, but it seems to be failing. I have done nothing wrong to rate a demotion and no one else in management, this time around, has taken a pay cut or received a demotion at my facility. This demotion took effect two weeks ago and I will feel it this Friday (pay day). Plus the company has had the knowledge for sometime now that our work load would increase, which it has. We are now doing three times the amount of orders and working overtime. I should not be punished for upper management's failure to manage this company correctly. I plan on taking this issue all the way to the president of the company until I receive my position back, with pay. My question is: can they do this?

anon40113
Post 5

Is it legal for an employer to demote you without telling you?

anon32766
Post 4

I was recently demoted to a lower pay and status, but told I would still maintain the same job duties. Can they do that?

anon32417
Post 3

I have just been taken out of a supervisor role without any warning, I had no notice or warning that this was going to happen, the role is still there and they now have someone else doing the role without the title, where do I stand with this and can I take legal action? at the time I was happy just to have a job and said nothing, this happened last week.

srobinson2
Post 2

It depends on why you were demoted. I was demoted without any previous warning, performance review, or notice. I didn't even realize at the time I was being "demoted" because I assumed a demotion was a decrease in pay, but a demotion is either a pay cut, title change, or responsibility change. I resigned rather than take a transfer from a supervisory, high-profile position to a non-supervisory. I filed for unemployment citing "constructive dismissal" and I received unemployment.

kearnsma
Post 1

So, is one eligible for unemployment if one resigns in response to a demotion and salary cut?

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