A good deed that resulted in bad disciplinary action
Published 22 July 2020
Ernie would often help out colleagues in trouble at work and it was a selfless act of goodwill that left him in an unfair battle to save his job.
The long-serving maintenance worker, and former trade union representative, was the go to guy for any colleague who found themselves in a spot of bother. The workplace did not have a recognised trade union.
Given his background Ernie was comfortable assisting colleagues in any dealings with management.
His role was unofficially acknowledged by his bosses, who would sometimes approach him to help with matters involving a member of staff.
Ernie’s own problem started when he agreed to accompany a workmate at a disciplinary hearing.
The employee was accused of serious health and safety breaches, but denied the allegations.
The worker had long-running health problems and in the past Ernie had supported him in meetings with management to discuss his health.
Although support was regularly provided following such meetings, it was often short-lived and a problem would frequently resurface.
Ernie felt that as a direct result of this his co-worker was now unfairly facing disciplinary action.
It led to Ernie advising his colleague to raise a formal grievance, which he did.
As the employee’s health could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, the grounds for grievance included disability discrimination in failing to make reasonable adjustments.
After the grievance was submitted Ernie was summoned to the office of his furious manager. He demanded to know what Ernie was playing at.
During the meeting it was made clear that the company intended to deal with the grievance later and press ahead with the disciplinary case.
Ernie objected and insisted the grievance should be heard first or at least concurrently.
It was a heated conversation, which ended when Ernie was ordered to leave the office.
Later that evening Ernie was contacted at home by his worried colleague.
He told Ernie the disciplinary hearing was now due to take place in two days’ time and he had been told that Ernie could not accompany him.
The following day Ernie went to see the manager to understand what was going on.
That meeting led to Ernie being suspended from work for colluding with a colleague to make false and malicious allegations.
This was in relation to the allegations contained within the worker’s grievance, which had not been heard or investigated.
Ernie’s colleague was left distressed by what was taking place and he was signed off work sick by his GP. As a result his disciplinary hearing was postponed
Concerned Ernie knew at this stage that he needed expert help and he contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre.
Our representative was appalled at the way Ernie had been treated. A grievance was submitted to the employer on Ernie’s behalf. It included examples of unfair treatment and alleged discrimination by association.
Associative discrimination (or discrimination by association) is when you treat someone unfairly because of someone else’s protected characteristic.
The company again attempted to be dismissive of a grievance and push ahead with the disciplinary process for Ernie.
Our representative objected. Following email and telephone correspondence, the company eventually agreed to hear the grievance.
At the grievance hearing our representative presented the case on behalf of Ernie.
He explained and detailed the unfair treatment and discrimination Ernie had been subjected to.
The hearing was provided with evidence - including evidence from the colleague Ernie had been helping - to support the grievance.
Ernie’s desired grievance outcome was for both him and his colleague to be treated fairly.
Our representative maintained that there were no reasonable grounds on which to proceed with the disciplinary process against Ernie and insisted that case should be reviewed and dropped.
All of the issues were discussed at length. An agreement was later reached to resolve Ernie’s grievance, and it included dropping the disciplinary allegation against him.
Ernie encouraged the colleague who he had been supporting to contact us. He did so.
With the backing of our representative he reached a settlement agreement with the employer and left for a new job.
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For 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