Can They Demote My Husbandd?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about demotion: He ended up in the ER that night with and an emergency appendectomy, and the doctor put him off work for three weeks

My husband recently wasn’t feeling well. He planned on going into work (he travels) and not worrying about the pains. He ended up in the ER that night with and an emergency appendectomy, and the doctor put him off work for three weeks. After two weeks, he called work to say he still had another week before he would return and they would see him then.

When he returned, he found they were not using him as project manager any more which is what he was before. After two weeks and asking everyone why this was happening, he got no response. Finally they told him he was demoted from project manager because he took so much time off. Can they do this?

Signed, Wife Who Cares

Dear Wife Who Cares:

Yes, they can and yes they did. I understand your question is: Is this fair and does he have any right to expect that his project manager job continues to be his after three weeks off due to surgery? Like you, I don’t think this is fair. But the facts are that a company can reassign positions unless your husband is working under a labor contract that states one off for surgery is to be returned to his previous position and/or unless there is a law such as that that states a soldier should be guaranteed to be returned to his job after being drafted.

You might wisely solicit how your state’s Department of Labor views your husband’s demotion after being off as ordered by his physician. He also might consult his company handbook to learn what is it has to say about being off due to surgery, and depending on what he learns he might quietly consult a labor attorney.

Can he appeal this decision? Yes, I think he can and might want to do so. First, it would be wise for him to prepare a log of events: the date of emergency surgery, the orders of his doctor about time he should be off, the dates he called in to report the his condition, and how he learned he had be reassigned to a different position.

Second, it would be good for him to make copies of performance evaluations and to list projects he successfully completed. Third, with this data, he can approach his superior, Human Resources, or Personnel for a review of what has occurred–with a written and face-to-face request that this change of assignment be investigated.

That request should include his surprise and disappointment in learning he was demoted, learning it in an offhand way. From what you say, he was not respectfully told of this reassignment. It would be wise to continue to log what transpires in and after this meeting with the appropriate superior or HR, Also it would be smart to maintain forthright communication about this.

Without whining or pestering, he should ask to be informed of what is decided in light of an investigation. Assuming that your husband likes and needs his job, I suggest that he does all he can to add value in the assignment to which he has been moved. His workplace, as is true of most workplaces, needs high performers. Your husband will want to keep this in mind and guard against turning sour and badmouthing those above that did what it seems to him is unfair.

Does this make sense? How we react to disappointment says a lot about the kind of character we have and need. Do let me know how all this works out. My best to you and your husband these next trying weeks. One thing you both can be thankful for is that his surgery was caught in time. Several decades ago, I too found that I had to stop work, in the middle of the day, and was in surgery for an appendectomy by 4 in the afternoon. Working together with hands, head, and heart (and without an appendix) takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what is needed in his workplace; for all with whom he works to feel proud of what they accomplish.

William Gorden