A disciplinary process that really did leave a bad taste in the mouth
It takes courage to report wrongdoing at work and the last thing you would expect is for it to put your job at risk.
But that is exactly what happened to Jeni when she reported food safety concerns to the owners of the restaurant where she had worked for just 18 months.
Jeni highlighted concerns about food storage and the preparation of meals. She was labelled a grass by colleagues and shunned. Bosses assured her the matters would be taken care of.
The restaurant later failed a food safety and hygiene audit after which Jeni was in for a huge shock. She was suspended from work and blamed for it.
Jeni protested and insisted that she was the one who had highlighted the issues and been ignored. The company maintained that she did not do so.
The restaurant proceeded to invite Jeni to attend a disciplinary hearing. She was warned that if the allegation of serious health and safety breaches against her was considered proven it could lead to dismissal.
Jeni was shocked by her employer’s actions. When she got to hear of two other members of staff, implicated in the complaints she had raised, being dismissed she understandably feared the worse.
The evidence for Jeni’s disciplinary hearing included a statement from her manager claiming that Jeni had never notified her of any concerns. There was another anonymous statement that said Jeni was always moaning about something but never did anything about it.
Worried Jeni contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help with her case.
She later met with our representative to review and discuss the case. After doing so our representative believed that Jeni could be considered a whistle-blower given that she had raised serious health and safety concerns that posed a risk to the public.
A whistle-blower is protected by law and should not be treated unfairly or lose their job because they ‘blow the whistle’
It was felt the treatment of Jeni in blaming her for the failed safety and hygiene inspection and subsequently taking disciplinary action against her amounted to unfavourable treatment for being a whistle-blower.
The normal length of service requirements do not apply in a whistle-blowing case, so where you would normally have to be employed for two years in order to claim constructive or unfair dismissal, in a whistle-blowing case there is no minimum service requirement.
Our representative raised a formal grievance on Jeni’s behalf. The grounds for the grievance was unfair treatment for being a whistle-blower. Jeni provided two emails she had sent to the owners of the restaurant making them aware of her concerns.
The company replied and said the grievance was mitigation, so it would not treat it as a grievance. Our representative argued that there was inevitably some overlap with the disciplinary case, but that it was a legitimate grievance that could not simply be dismissed as mitigation.
After an exchange of correspondence the company eventually arranged to hear the grievance. Prior to the grievance hearing it contacted our representative to understand what outcome Jeni was seeking.
Given the company’s response to her concerns and treatment by colleagues Jeni did not wish to return to work and had attended interviews looking for a new job. She made it clear she had lost trust and confidence in the restaurant bosses.
Our representative took part in discussions and negotiations that eventually led to a suitable settlement agreement being approved.
Jeni was able to leave on her terms, which included a four-figure tax free payment, and carry on with a new job she had secured in the meantime,
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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611