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A passion for fashion for which an employee nearly paid too high a price.

Published 04 October 2023

Let’s face it who would not jump at a chance to make extra money from something we know about and is easy to do - but Faith found herself in serious trouble for doing just that.

As a flight attendant her job took her all over the world. It allowed her to indulge in her love of fashion and purchase garments from across the globe.

And it was this, combined with an idea that came about while moving house, that left Faith facing a difficult fight to save the job she loved.

When Faith, who had worked for her employer for five years, first contacted our Employee Support Centre for help, she explained the situation she found herself in.

Faith told our representative she came up with the idea to sell unwanted clothes online while packing things to move house a year earlier, and being shocked by the amount of fashion items she had purchased and collected over the years.

The bright idea would later prove to be a huge problem as a result of matters that arose after Faith was suspended from work.

It followed an allegation made by a female passenger on a flight after a heated exchange of words between the pair.

Faith spoke to the woman because other passengers were unhappy and concerned about her behaviour.

The woman later complained to airline bosses that Faith was aggressive and appeared drunk and ‘reeked of alcohol.’  With the complaint she sent a seven-second video clip that she said showed Faith pointing at her and ‘shouting’.

Faith was left shocked by the allegation, later diagnosed by her GP as suffering with work-related stress and signed off work.

She eventually took part in a virtual fact-finding meeting as part of a disciplinary investigation, which took place two months after Faith was suspended

She categorically denied the allegations, admitted raising her voice but not shouting, said the passenger was a problem to others on the flight and staff and encouraged the investigating manager to speak to her colleagues.

The allegation was later dropped, but Faith’s problem did not end there.

She was invited to a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of misusing and abusing sick leave by running a business selling clothes online while unfit for work.

It was at this point that a shocked, exasperated and worried Faith turned to us for help.

She believed she had no choice at this stage. It was after raising a grievance to allege she was being treated unfairly because she did not own a business, and her employer responding it would be considered as part of the disciplinary case.

The evidence to support the  disciplinary allegation against Faith included a dress the investigator had asked someone to purchase from her while she was off sick, and screenshots of different items being put up for sale during that same period.

Our representative who had quizzed Faith in detail about matters in the case, asserted at the disciplinary hearing that she did not run a business or misuse sick leave.

It was established by our representative that Faith had earned less than £1,000 selling the clothes at a reduced price.

He told the hearing that it did not exceed the business trading threshold set by HMRC and therefore she cannot reasonably be considered to be running a business.

To support that she only made a small profit, he pointed out the unworn dress purchased by the investigator, with price tag still attached, was worth $130 and she sold it for just £17.

Our representative also said Faith’s sister helped her out. Her sister would put items online and post them whenever Faith was out of the country or unavailable. It was explained that this is what largely happened while Faith was off sick.

In a comprehensive presentation of Faith’s case, our representative strongly asserted any disciplinary action taken against her would be extremely unfair.

Faith was later cleared of the allegation.

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