Is it legal to demote an employee because they lack credentials needed for the job that should have been checked prior to being promoted?

UPDATED: Mar 3, 2012

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Is it legal to demote an employee because they lack credentials needed for the job that should have been checked prior to being promoted?

My employer promoted me to a courier position without checking my driving credentials fully. After I successfully completed all of the training and had been doing the actual job on my own for several weeks i was told that I was no longer allowed to drive or even be a courier. The rule is that any driver is required to possess a valid drivers license for a minimum of 3 years. I’ve had mine 2 years and 9 months. The demoted me and cut my pay which was a significant decrease. Not to mention the amount of hours I lost too. Soon I will lose my apartment. I am not at fault yet I’m being punished.

Asked on March 3, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you did not have an employment contract, you are what is known as an employee at will. An employee at will may be fired at any time, for any reason whatsoever, except for reasons that are specifically made illegal, like discrimination against certain groups. Being able to fire at will, an employer may also do things that are "less than" firing--like demoting or reducing pay.

Employers are free to set the qualifications for work or for specific jobs--again so long as they do not set illegal qualifications, such as that someone must be of a certain race.

Putting these together, your employer may demote you if you lacked a qualification for the job you were promoted to. The fact that it would have been better had they found that out before granting you the promotion does not make what they did illegal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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