Can an employee be demoted due to a temporary medical restriction?

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Can an employee be demoted due to a temporary medical restriction?

After surgery on an employee, the doctor put limited duties to be performed by the employee for a short period of time – no lifting and bending. Would the employer be able to demote said the employee because of this?

Asked on October 25, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, the employee can most likely be demoted IF due to the restrictions, he or she is only able to do a job that would pay less (and/or is working shorter hours). That is, the employee may not suffer retaliation for being disabled--he or she can't be punished for being restricted. However, the employer is allowed to manage the business, and does not have to make up jobs that don't exist, or pay someone when they are unable to work. So if as a result of the restrictions, the employer has to move the employee into a different position and/or change hours or schedules, and do to that change, the employee must be demoted (it's a lower-level or lower-paying position), that would be legal for the employer to do.

That's the general rule. In any given case, the specifics--exactly what are the restrictions; what can the employee do; what positions are available for him or her; how long will the disability last; etc.--are critical. It is recommended that for a definitive answer, you consult with an employement attorney about these precise circumstances.


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