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Demoting Someone Legally Can Seem Like Mission Impossible

Demoting Someone Legally Can Seem Like Mission Impossible

You’re not Ethan Hunt. The employee ain’t no femme fatale. But by being a villain, you might get sued for constructive dismissal.

Blockbuster action flicks make your adrenalin gush. Tom Cruise daring a mid-air helicopter leap leaves you on the edge of your seat.

Demoting an employee without causing a meltdown (sans dirty bombs) can feel like the new Mission: Impossible movie. The fallout from failing could be catastrophic: an explosive lawsuit for constructive dismissal.

The Dirt On Demotions
Slash someone’s pay. Strip ‘em of their title. “Eliminate” their staff. These are acts of intrigue that qualify as demotions. So’s abducting them to some hostile foreign locale – say, to a cubicle from their former secret lair (or private office). 

Granted in M:I – Fallout, demotions are a tad more brutal. Traitors like [Spoiler Alert] get disappeared. Flunkies who f—up are capped execution style. Neither exactly falls under “progressive discipline.”

Reasons To Decapitate
Like the raging violence Ethan Hunt unleashes, you’d best have a damned good excuse for demoting. Change the employment contract unilaterally and watch out. Here are some causes that almost surely won’t cut it:
•    Restructuring without the demotee’s consent (no torture allowed)
•    Trying to coerce someone to quit so you won’t have to fork over severance
•    You picture that employee as your rival, à la ruthless August Walker

Avoiding Extralegal Measures
A shadowy group, the Apostles, impose chaos in this movie lawlessly. You’re gonna have to tread more cautiously.

In the same way, you need just cause for dismissal, gotta have it for demotion too. Repeated errors or lateness. Insubordination. Breaching the code of conduct. Or plain ol’ incompetence.

But you can’t do the deed by whipping a switchblade from your skirt, though it’s damned impressive when White Widow does. First, you’ve got to show you made expectations clear, and that they’re reasonable and necessary.

Also, have you documented the employee’s failures – on media that won’t self-destruct in five seconds? Did you give them adequate support and training, much as the IMF’s crack team of agents received to defend the world?

No Clandestine Communications
Ilsa whispers on the sly to Julia as the film draws to an end. It’s oh so mysterious. Forget about duplicating that shtick. You’re obliged to let the staffer know what requirements they fall short on. 

Include specifics, e.g. not meeting agreed-to productivity goals, or letting disputes linger interminably. Mention the amount of time, and types of remedial support, being given.

Then deliver the ultimatum: produce the ransom by tonight, or you’ll nuke three cities Er, clean up their act by such and such a date or get demoted.

Velvet Gloves Instead Of Garroting
In the prequel to this latest movie, baddy Solomon Lane leaves Hunt alive rather than killing him. You could opt to forestall the demotion if circumstances merit mercy. Proper training and coaching might be the solution.

If not, follow Lane’s lead. “There cannot be peace without great suffering,” he prophesies. Be careful to get legal advice first, else that misery might be your own.


Legal Disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.