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Job demotion: Valid company action or … something else?

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2021 | Employee Discrimination

Are you an individual employed in a federal agency or department where the unbiased treatment of all employees is manifestly on display every day? Are you convinced that your employer fully appreciates the productive efforts you routinely put forth and accords you unwaveringly fair treatment despite any distinguishing attributes you possess?

If that describes your personal work environment and employment status, kudos to you. Your situation is enviable, and it is clearly tied to an optimal level of job security.

There are of course others who recount similar upsides concerning their workplace worlds and are legitimately thankful for their job placement.

Their happy situation is not uniformly realized elsewhere, though. In fact, legions of federal workers across the country have an on-the-job relationship with their employer that is far more toxic than blissful. Disparate and prejudicial treatment from supervisors and top company decision makers is a commonplace in many work venues. One legal source discussing unfair workplace treatment and linked worker detriment spotlights federal employees who “have suffered damages due to discrimination in the workplace.”

Job demotion: sometimes pretextual and patently unfair

An in-depth overview of job demotions from legal information site HG.org underscores a dividing line between valid and impermissible company behavior. It rightly points out that companies (especially in so-called “at-will” situations where a work contract does not feature) can lawfully demote workers for a number of reasons. A few representative examples include subpar performance, incessant tardiness, failure to cooperate with other employees and so forth.

Even in an at-will context, though, an employer is not empowered to demote a worker for an unlawful reason. That management does sometimes seek to do so through pretextual conduct (e.g., citing substandard performance when the real reason is something else) is amply borne out in high numbers of instances.

Invalid reasons for demoting an employee

A discussion of impermissible job demotion or termination might logically commence with mention of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically its Title VII safeguards relevant to a number of protected classifications. Among other things, an employer may not demote or otherwise punish a worker because of his or her:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Pregnancy

Other safeguards have been added as Title VII supplements over the years. They include protections against discriminatory behavior aimed at age, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation.

There are a number of things a victimized federal worker can do in the face of unlawful company behavior. A logical first step is to reach out to a proven and empathetic employment law team for candid counsel and diligent legal representation.


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