Retailers can offer valuable discounts on products but if staff apply price cuts incorrectly it can have serious consequences.
Store manager Abi was alleged to have deliberately misused the discount procedure on goods at the electrical retailer where she had worked for four years.
Her actions were considered fraudulent and she was suspended from work to allow an investigation to take place.
A new area manager raised the concern after he reviewed paperwork at the high street store.
Abi was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of wilful failure to observe rules for discounts and potentially fraudulent activity in breach of her employment contract.
Devastated Abi denied the allegation and maintained she had applied discounts in the way she had been shown by her previous area manager.
The allegation centred on discounts she had authorised for customers on laptops and headphones.
Abi was paid a bonus for hitting sales targets. The suggestion was she discounted items to boost her sales figures and pocket that bonus.
The disciplinary investigation and the manner in which it was conducted by her area manager made Abi genuinely believe she was being targeted and unfairly treated.
This was a view shared by our representative when he spoke to Abi after she contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help with her case.
Abi felt the area manager did not like her and was raising the matter in an attempt to get rid of her.
She explained that when he took the role he seemed to take an immediate dislike to her. Abi said he spoke to her like a child in that he was usually rude, condescending and patronising.
The result was Abi felt nervous, uncomfortable and anxious every time she had to speak to her area manager.
It was clear from our representative’s discussions with Abi that she felt bullied and intimidated. The disciplinary process and the unfair way in which the investigation was conducted also provided evidence to support this viewpoint, in that the area manager had abused his position of power.
Abi raised a grievance alleging bullying and unfair treatment.
The grievance requested that in accordance with section 46 of the ACAS Code of Practice the disciplinary process be suspended in order to resolve the grievance first.
The employer agreed, it then heard the grievance, investigated it and rejected it. Subsequently Abi submitted an appeal, attended a grievance appeal hearing and her appeal was rejected.
This can happen with well-founded grievances in situations where an employer simply refuses to accept it has done anything wrong in the face of evidence to the contrary. Should a case in which this has happened reach an employment tribunal it can have serious consequences for an employer.
The disciplinary hearing then went ahead and our representative was strong in his assertion the allegation was unsubstantiated and the process unfair.
Prior to the hearing he requested the ‘rules for discounts’ which Abi was alleged to have failed to observe. The employer was unable to produce any written rule, policy or procedure that covered discounts.
Our representative had also asked Abi to get a statement from her previous area manager, which she did. He confirmed he had shown her the way in which to apply discounts.
The hearing was told the lack of any tangible rules for discounts and the evidence from the ex area manager help to substantiate Abi had not done anything wrong.
Our representative then focused on the disciplinary process and unfairness of it. It included denying Abi the right to be accompanied at the investigation meeting in accordance with company policy; witness evidence cited in support of the allegation but those statements not being provided and the manipulation of Abi’s investigation meeting notes to provide a misleading account of what she said.
This was all part of a comprehensive rebuttal of the allegation, which led to Abi eventually being cleared of any deliberate wrongdoing.