Vanessa was conscious of her weight and when her employer used a matter related to it to try to discipline her, it really did add insult to injury.
The sales rep was accused of submitting a fraudulent expenses claim for a meal, which her employer insisted could not have been consumed by just one person.
Vanessa, who had worked for the company for three years, was allowed to claim for an evening meal if she was working away from home.
When she initially submitted the claim some months earlier it was signed off by her manager and paid.
Vanessa’s problem arose when a colleague was dismissed for making dishonest expenses and mileage claims.
He claimed unfair dismissal, and insisted it was common practice for staff to submit exaggerated claims. It led to a wholesale review of the process.
A number of issues were identified with claims that had been submitted by Vanessa. She was suspended from work and later invited to an investigation meeting.
At the meeting she was questioned about mileage and personal expenses claims. Vanessa provided a comprehensive response to all matters raised with her.
Further enquiries were subsequently carried out. Vanessa was then invited to attend a second fact finding meeting as part of the disciplinary investigation process.
At that meeting Vanessa was presented with the receipt for an evening meal.
The investigating manager insisted that given the items on the receipt and amount spent it could not have been for one person, as permitted in accordance with company policy.
Embarrassed Vanessa pointed out that the food was just for her, she was considerably overweight and had a big appetite. The investigating manager refused to accept the explanation and accused her of lying.
He said it was better if Vanessa came clean and said who was with her because he would check CCTV at the restaurant – although the claim was months earlier and he had no right to review it – and the footage would reveal the truth. Humiliated Vanessa urged him to do so.
A week later Vanessa received a letter inviting her to a disciplinary hearing.
The letter detailed allegations of making a fraudulent expenses claim for an evening meal and of acting in a way that could cause the company to lose trust and confidence in her.
Vanessa was warned in the letter that if the allegations were considered proven it could lead to dismissal.
Concerned Vanessa contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
After reviewing the case and speaking to Vanessa, our representative was concerned about the lack of evidence to support the allegations.
Vanessa also opened up to our representative about her weight and the work she had started doing to lose weight.
Prior to the disciplinary hearing our representative contacted the company to establish if the investigating manager had obtained CCTV from the restaurant. The company confirmed he had not done so.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative was strong in his assertion the allegation was groundless, and that there was no evidence to support it.
He pointed to the receipt and the fact only one drink and one dessert had been ordered as good evidence to show Vanessa was alone. The hearing was told the expenses claim was checked and authorised and no concerns raised when it was originally submitted.
Vanessa’s battle to lose weight was also explained as was the help and support she was getting to assist her to do so.
Our representative raised concerns about the conduct of the investigating manager, and the fact his refusal to accept Vanessa was alone had left her feeling shamed and upset.
He said any loss of trust and confidence in Vanessa had to be based on some other substantial reason, and there was nothing in the case that would cause a reasonable employer to lose trust in her.
As soon as our representative had finished presenting Vanessa’s case, she was informed instantly that the allegations were dismissed.
It was perhaps not the way Vanessa wanted to lose weight, but the disciplinary case spurred her into action. Just over a year later she was named a weight loss group’s slimmer of the year.