The problem with the inconsistent handling of disciplinary matters
When an employer takes a different approach to the same matter it can find both itself and an innocent employee in trouble.
Workmates can be like friends and if you’re lucky family. And just like with family and friends there can be fall outs.
The most trivial of things can escalate and create a huge problem. This was certainly the case with repair technician Josh and his colleague.
In a chat about a football match a workmate told Josh that he should f*** off and learn about the game before he starts talking about it. Josh responded and was told by his pal to sit down before he got slapped down. The pair laughed it off and thought nothing else of it.
A new manager had been appointed just weeks earlier. He later spoke to Josh and told him he witnessed and heard what had been said. He said he was not going to put up with abusive language and threats being made. The manager said Josh can raise a grievance and it would be investigated because that is the way to deal with it.
Josh explained he was fine, they were messing about as it is the type of banter they have and he made it clear he did not wish to complain.
However, a couple of weeks later the two clashed verbally over a work-related matter. This time It was Josh who used abusive language. Josh was summoned to his manager’s office and left shocked by what he was then told.
He was suspended from work for using foul and abusive language and threatening behaviour.
Josh queried if his colleague had raised a grievance because the manager had previously said that was the way to deal with complaints. Josh was told that his colleague had not done so.
A week later Josh was invited to a fact-finding meeting as part of the disciplinary investigation process. The meeting was held by the head of a different department and he told Josh that his manager had raised the concern
Josh argued that he was being treated unfairly as this was not the way that incidents such as this had been dealt with previously. His protest made no difference. Shortly after the meeting Josh was invited to attend a formal disciplinary hearing.
The allegations listed was using foul and abusive language and threatening behaviour towards a colleague.
Josh contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for advice. He discussed the case with our representative and provided her with the evidence provided to support the allegations. This included a statement from the worker who Josh spoke to, which detailed what was said but did not include a complaint. There was also a statement from the manager, which described Josh’s behaviour as unacceptable.
At the hearing our representative presented a prepared statement of case on behalf of Josh, which detailed his responses to the allegations and the flaws and unfairness of the case against him.
The response to the allegations detailed that: Josh was being treated unfairly; the approach being taken in the case was different to how traditionally such matters are dealt with and it meant Josh felt singled out and understandably victimised by the inconsistent handling of such matters; and the employee did not complain.
Our representative explained Josh regretted being involved in the incident, had taken appropriate learning from it and was willing and eager to work with the company to address any concerns arising from the case.
Our representative highlighted that the ACAS Code of Practice advises employers to attempt an initial informal approach to disciplinary matters, which was appropriate in this case.
Josh was asked a number of questions about the incident before the hearing was adjourned. Josh was later cleared of any wrongdoing, and all staff were reminded of the company code of conduct and the standard of behaviour expected in the workplace.
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