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A welcome final destination to an unwelcome trip through the disciplinary process

Published 24 February 2021
When medical sales rep Jesse was threatened with dismissal for failing to report damage to his company vehicle he faced a difficult journey to justice.

The serious allegation was levelled against him shortly after his employer initiated a redundancy consultation process with all staff.

Jesse, who was the longest serving employee with 17 years’ service, felt the allegation was a sneaky way to dismiss him and avoid paying redundancy

His employer was alerted to the vehicle damage when the car went in for its annual service. Jesse was presented with a large repair bill and told  he had to pay it.

There was minor damage to the back bumper and other small dents and scratches on the bodywork.

Jesse refused to foot the repair bill.  He pointed out colleagues had damaged company vehicles and not had to pay for repairs. Defiant Jesse was suspended from work.

The company commenced a disciplinary investigation. Jesse was invited to an investigation meeting and shown pictures of the damage. He said it was minor and that he had not noticed it.

The investigating officer was adamant it was company policy to inspect the vehicles weekly and report any damage. Jesse said he was unaware of the policy.

Jesse argued two female colleagues he knew of had damaged vehicles and not had to pay for repairs. He was informed that was irrelevant.

Jesse was later invited to a disciplinary hearing for failing to report damage to a vehicle in accordance with company policy. He was warned dismissal was a potential outcome.

Worried Jesse contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

Our representative queried Jesse’s claim about damage to vehicles driven by female colleagues and enquired about the vehicle inspection policy.

Based on Jesse’s responses our representative felt that he was being treated unfairly. As a result a formal grievance was raised and submitted to the employer on behalf of Jesse.

It was on the grounds  of sex discrimination in that he was being treated differently to female colleagues and unfair treatment, which covered a range of other matters.

The grievance requested that the disciplinary process be suspended in accordance with section 46 of ACAS Code of Practice, as if upheld it would have serious implications for the disciplinary process. The employer agreed to deal with the grievance first.

Crucial in any grievance process is understanding what outcome the employee wishes to achieve. In Jesse’s case he wanted to be able to leave without being dismissed and at least be paid what he would receive if he was made redundant, which he fully expected to happen.

Prior to the grievance hearing our representative had requested from the employer details of any vehicle inspection training Jesse had received. He also requested a copy of the policy that stated employees had to carry out weekly vehicle inspections and report damage.

In response the company was unable to provide the requested information, but said all matters can be fully discussed at the grievance hearing.

At the grievance hearing our representative argued Jesse was being treated differently to female employees. He asserted that it could reasonably be considered to amount to sex discrimination and a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

He focused on the vehicle damage and pictures and asserted Jesse would have to be a competent vehicle inspector to detect some of the minor damage highlighted. He pointed out the company had not provided Jesse with training to perform inspections and therefore the action being taken was unfair and Jesse was justified in feeling victimised.

Our representative vigorously challenged the company about the policy that said employees had to carry out weekly vehicle inspections. It established that there was no such written policy.

Jesse’s feeling that the disciplinary was a way to dismiss him rather than pay redundancy was also explained.

At the end of the grievance hearing a discussion took place about Jesse’s desired outcome. Later discussions and negotiations allowed the parties to reach a settlement agreement.

It allowed Jesse to leave with more money than he would have received had he been made redundant.

 
 

 

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