My husband has been working for a Drug Store chain for over 50 years. He’s in his late 60s. He is the Assistant Manager. He is a very hard worker, he is ALWAYS on time. (Always early), never calls in sick, & even goes in on days off sometimes to do the banking for the manager & fixes any other problems she might have when needed. A new supervisor has just been appointed & I think wants him out. (This man even recently told him he couldn’t take off for my dad’s funeral). He told my husband he wants to transfer him out to work in 2 stores (1 is about 40 minutes from our home) doing overnight shifts or he would be out of a job. Can the supervisor fire him if doesn’t accept this position since he was never hired for overnight hours & if so can he collect unemployment? He needs to work one more year until we’re both eligible for Medicare.

 Evil HR Lady’s rule of firing is that they can fire any person at any time for any reason as long as the termination isn’t expressly prohibited by law. So, you can fire a black, gay, pregnant immigrant, age 42, but you can’t fire her because she’s black, pregnant, an immigrant or 42. In some states, you can’t fire her because she’s gay either, but in some you can. Most companies, though, have strict policies regarding termination. These most often include a requirement for performance improvement plans, coaching, and bending over backwards to try to solve the problem.

So, can this new supervisor fire your husband? Absolutely. But I suspect his bosses and HR won’t let him. As a result, he’s attempting to make your husband’s job so miserable that he’ll quit. Now, there’s a term for this called “constructive discharge” which means that the conditions were so horrible that any rational person would quit. However, being transferred to a store 40 minutes away and working the night shift won’t qualify under that, as plenty of people work under such conditions. (For 9 years, I commuted an hour to work, each way, and I’m not at all unusual.)

First of all, the rest of my answer assumes the following:

1. Your husband is still a good performer.

2. The “supervisor” is a district manager of sorts who has power over the store manager.

3. The supervisor’s name is Jim.

If any of those are false, all bets are off.

Your husband’s first step is to talk to his store manager. The conversation should go something like this, “Jim wants to transfer me and put me on nights. Have I done something wrong?” Take notes as the manager answers this questions. if the answer is yes, then ask the manager to list the problems. If the answer is no, then ask, “Do you know why he wants to transfer me?” Write down whatever he says. If the answer is “Jim thinks you’re too old,” well, then there’s your answer.

If the answer was yes, and he now has his list of things to do, he should next go to Jim, and say, “I understand that you are concerned with a, b, and c. Can we speak about what I need to do to correct these? I have been doing this job for a long time, very successfully, and it seems like a punishment to be transferred to a new store and an overnight shift for things that I can easily correct.”

Now, you’ll note that I said my answer hinged on the fact that your husband is a good performer, in which case, these things are going to be inconsequential and will most likely be “pretexts” for the real problem, which I suspect is age. So, after having attempted to address these things, if the supervisor still wants a nasty transfer, it’s time to pull out the big guns. The age discrimination complaint. You can (and probably should) hire an attorney for this. If you want to hire an attorney, you need an employment attorney, not the guy who did your wills. You can find one in your area by going to (I should totally get a kickback from them!)

But, if you want to go this alone, write up all the problems and the ridiculous transfer request and title this: “Official Complaint of Age Discrimination.” This is a little trick from Employment attorney Donna Ballman and it’s awesome. Why? Because it doesn’t mince words. There is no way anyone who receives this can say, “Well, he wasn’t really complaining about age discrimination.” Don’t write, “I think maybe Jim doesn’t like me here because I’m old.” That’s way too soft. Document everything. Who does he want to put into your husband’s current role? I’m betting it’s not someone in his 70s.

Send this official complaint to Human Resources. This will freak them the heck out and should solve the problem, assuming the problem is with Jim and not your husband. If the problem is with your husband (he won’t learn new software, he is slacking off at work, he can’t keep up with the younger crew), all bets are off. Because you can fire someone in their mid-60s, you just can’t fire someone because they are over 60. (Unless you’re in an industry with mandatory retirement, but that’s irrelevant here.)

Related Posts

12 thoughts on “Can they fire my husband?

  1. You hit the nail on the head with “my answer hinged on the fact that your husband is a good performer.” What you did NOT do was advise the woman to have a heart to heart talk with her husband, before jumping through all the hoops.

    This guy has been there 50 years and is still only an assistant manager? That doesn’t pass the smell test. Love is blind, they say, and in this case I’d bet a box of doughnuts things are not as rosy at work as the wife thinks. She, however, thinks hubby should be Employee of the Year, and would never think to question him, unless directly prompted to do so.

    On the other hand, the “new supervisor” doesn’t pass the smell test either, and I’ve seen companies bring in gunslingers to clean house. It’s also odd that the “solution” is to put a 64 year old guy on the overnight “re-stocking shift” where he will be bending and lifting boxes. I’d bet an additional box of breakfast croissants that this “transfer” is already a done deal and has been discussed at higher levels. Unfortunately, I’ve been in on those “how to get rid of this guy” discussions and I know how they go.

    But, an honest sit-down with the wife will save any embarrassment later, and possibly eliminate the need to go through a lot of unnecessary red tape. It’s very likely that an employee of his tenure, in a dead end job, has taken some “liberties” or made some disparaging comments over the years that may have led to this situation. It could be a case of “Physician…heal thyself.”

    An old colleague of mine from the UK had a very appropriate euphemism: “Call a spade a bloody shovel.” It does no one any good to sugar coat things.

    1. It is true that it is unusual to be in a company for that long and only be an assistant manager. But, let’s not forget about the Peter Principle. Maybe he recognized years ago that this was what he was good at and why go further?

      Frankly, the world stops functioning if everyone wants to keep climbing. We need people to do the actual work.

      1. Or maybe he seriously did not want to be a higher manager, ever, because they have performance metrics that he doesn’t want to deal with. For instance I do not ever want to be in a job where my compensation is based on the performance of others.

        I don’t want to be a high enough manger in the chain to be told “Sam didn’t sell 50 widgets your bonus is down 10%.” It’s not my thing. I don’t in a retail setting want to be responsible for the success of the sales goal for the month. It’s just not something I mentally want to deal with.

        So for me in that case, I’d be the best assistant manager in the universe, train 5 different general managers over the years happily and cover for them when they’re on holiday. But I wouldn’t want their jobs.

        1. I think this is really important. Not everyone wants to climb the ladder and we shouldn’t condemn people who don’t want to.

          1. Absolutely agree with not everyone wants to be a top dog and nor is everyone qualified. And there is nothing wrong with that.

            You only have a certain amount of higher management positions. Everyone can’t get them. And too often the ones that do get them are the LEAST qualified.

            I often wonder how many workers, basic non-mgmt hourly workers, are MORE qualified to be supervisors and managers then the ones already there. Maybe they are smart enough to know it is not all it is cracked up to be and choose not to even think about it.

    2. “This guy has been there 50 years and is still only an assistant manager? That doesn’t pass the smell test. Love is blind, they say, and in this case I’d bet a box of doughnuts things are not as rosy at work as the wife thinks.”

      I disagree. It could be that with his education level he is capped out at Assistant Manager, or that in order to “climb the ladder” he would have had to have relocated, not something all people are interested in.

      The folks in my parents social circles worked jobs that kept them comfortable, and were not necessarily determined to get promotions etc. They expected to retire at their jobs and be rewarded with a pension in exchange for their loyalty and unwavering service to their companies.

      Someone who has been around long enough to have worked 50 years in their lifetime in small town USA may have had this expectation and could be blindsided by something like this.

  2. And with someone who has 50+ years with the company, he is probably one of the highest paid employees. If the head office is looking at numbers, cutting higher waged employees (or hoping they quit), is one way of saving big money. Sometimes companies only see the $$$ that they dish out to these employees rather than seeing the value and experience that they bring to the job. If this employee is doing a good job, keeping up with software, staying current, etc., as well as so much extra for the company, such as banking, how many people would it take to replace him to do the same job? Probably 2 or 3 (or others would be expected to pick up the slack and do extra -at their current salaries, no doubt). Would the total salary of the 2-3 replacement employees still be less than what he’s making? or would it end up being more? I’m sure head office has thought of the $$$ part, but have they worked out the experience/workload part? I wish him luck and hope it ends up in his favour.

    1. Hey may or may not be. Lots of companies have salary ranges for jobs that are very strict. Depending on this company’s policies, he may be making no more than other assistant managers.

      Regardless, transferring someone to a store far away and switching them to night shift is a punishment. If he’s a slacker, go for it. if it’s because he’s old, regardless of salary, that’s wrong.

  3. From what I read, this is becoming standard practice at the big pharmacy chains (even more so with pharmacists than store employees). The dictates from on high are pretty much impossible to meet. The district managers are under extreme pressure to meet metrics. They are not able to do that without being unethical. It is very likely that they can’t meet metrics without getting rid of higher paid employees.

    If he doesn’t want to quit, you probably need a lawyer.

    1. He probably should get a lawyer even if he decides to quit. This is type of things company lawyers will advise severance for.

  4. In reading this, a few things come to mind.
    1. Drug store chains, and three come to mind, face STIFF competition, not just from each other, but from large box stores like Walmart, Target, Sam’s, CostCo, and employer-sponsored online pharmacies, especially with maintenance medications, just to name a few. They are constantly under the gun to reinvent themselves to stay relevant. Hence the reason why they all have apps for smartphones that allow for health monitoring, sales, this and that . . . one chain recently decided to do away with tobacco and smoking-related products. The point is, change is the watch word, the buzz, the norm.
    2. Long-time employees, especially those in middle management positions can become road blocks to change, the “We’ve always done it this way, why do we have to change it?” mentality is often more ingrained in longer-tenured employees and those in middle management positions can put a dead stop to changes they don’t want to see implemented.
    3. Good on the husband in the above. Staying with one employer for such a long time shows perseverance and tenacity. But I agree with the other comments, why only AM after 50 years?
    4. Regardless of how well a store is doing, a manager is under the gun to do better. He (or she) wants to prove him or herself up to the task because that’s how he or she gets promoted. Unfortunately, they often want people more like themselves and the above not-named husband may be too different. Sadly, this may mean he has to go. And if these edits are accurate and coming from out-of-the-blue, then bad on the manager for trying to take the coward’s way out by “constructive discharge.” Of course, this may not be the case at all. It could be that this new manager has identified husband previously-mentioned as a “turn around” agent and possibly is being sent to underperforming stores to turn them around.
    4. Good on the wife for being concerned. Unfortunately, family members do not always get the whole story. There could be things that have been said or done that didn’t get communicated.
    5. The manager is stinky cheese. It happens. I’ve worked for a few who have been hired to their level of incompetence.
    6. There could be a personality conflict.

    I could continue but the point is, without being directly involved in the situation, we have no way of knowing the details. It may not be as bad as it seems. It may be worse. On the other hand, it may be better.

    In any case, I wish the commenter and her husband the best in what seems like a difficult situation.

    1. Personality conflict can’t be underestimated. Frequently new management will want to clean house and bring in their own teams. So, they’ll do what it takes to make this happen.

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.