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Case Studies

Case Studies

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Blindsided by a disciplinary process an employer thought was an open and shut case.

Published 09 June 2022

When a customer is evidently wrong but insists they are right, it can create serious problems for an employee.

Window blind fitter Connor was accused of fitting the wrong shutters at a female customer’s home despite the order form showing he had fitted what had been ordered,

The homeowner called Connor’s manager, alleged he had fitted the incorrect window coverings and that he was rude, aggressive and intimidating when she told him.

Following the call Connor, who had worked for his employer for four years, was summoned to his manager’s office, informed of the complaint and immediately suspended from work.

Connor was told the blinds would be replaced because the woman was threatening to write a scathing online review, which would be bad for business.

He insisted the order was right and he had not acted as alleged by the customer.

Connor was later invited to a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of bringing his employer into disrepute. He was warned dismissal was a potential outcome to the hearing.

Fearful Connor contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

The evidence against him included a written statement from the customer and one from his manager detailing what the homeowner told him at the time.

Also included was a previous customer complaint against Connor, from two years earlier. It was about the amount of time he spent on his phone while working. No action was ever taken against Connor in relation to it.

Having left his last job with a settlement agreement when facing disciplinary action, Connor understandably feared the worst.

The job now was ideal and he did not want to lose it, especially after reaching an agreement with his employer that allowed him flexible working which enabled him to help to care for his disabled mother.

Ahead of the disciplinary hearing our representative discussed the case at length with Connor.

He vehemently protested his innocence, insisted he fitted the correct blinds and that he was professional and courteous when the customer complained.

Prior to the hearing our representative requested all of the paperwork in relation to the order. It proved Connor had fitted what the customer had ordered. The evidence was presented to the disciplinary hearing chair.

But perhaps the best bit of evidence to support Connor’s case actually came from the customer herself.

Our representatives are experts at scrutinising witness statements and pinpointing comments and evidence in what is said, or not said, that can help an employee’s case.

Buried in the complainant’s witness statement, which she had been allowed to write without question, was a line that said when she saw the shutters at the window she decided instantly she did not like them. This was highlighted as the real reason for her complaint.

Our representative pointed out the witness statement made refuted allegations about Connor’s conduct, but did not repeat her original claim he fitted shutters she did not order.

It was highlighted this had not been explored, and the company appeared blinkered in simply accepting the manager’s statement and what he was told at the time rather than evaluating the evidence and exploring it.

Reference was made to the grossly unfair and prejudicial use of a previous complaint against Connor for which no action was ever taken. Our representative asserted it should be discarded because even if Connor had been given a formal warning, it should not be taken into account after it had expired.

The disciplinary hearing was told that in regards to what was said, it was a case of Connor’s word against that of the customer with no corroboration for either version of events.

Our representative maintained Connor, especially given his positive customer feedback, evidence of which was presented to the hearing, should be given the benefit of the doubt in such circumstances.

It was strongly asserted by our representative that Connor’s actions cannot reasonably be considered to have brought the company into disrepute.

He was cleared of the allegation 48 hours after the disciplinary hearing.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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