If someone is on short term for cchemotherapy treatments, can their boss demote them and cut their pay?

My girlfriend just started chemotherapy for a liver problem. The chemo of course is making her weak and tired. Her job is very stressful and kind of high profile; it includes some physical aspects such as alot of standing and walking around in an office building and setting/moving chairs around for different meeting setups. She told her bosses prior to starting and they said they would accommodate. However, after starting they are now saying that if she can’t operate at 100% then she will have to be demoted and replaced permanently (the demotion is a 40% wage loss). Can they do this?

Asked on October 28, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The employer *may* be able to do this. An employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of a disability, but that is limited to having to make reasonable accomodations. If an employee simply cannot do a job, they may be transferred to a different one, demoted, or even terminated, notwithstanding that they are disabled: an employer is not required to pay someone for a job they can't do.

Similarly, while an employer should not retaliate against someone for filing a disability claim, the employer is allowed to manage its business: if someone can't do a job, they can be transferred to a position they can do, and if that transfer comes with a pay cut or demotion, that may be allowed.

The above are just general principals: every case is different, and the facts are critical. For a definitive answer, your girlfriend needs to consult with an employment law attorney about the specifics of her case.

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