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Correcting a disciplinary process that sends out the wrong message.

Published 23 December 2020
Despite the many advances in technology, the text message has not yet become a suitable replacement for a disciplinary hearing.

Maintenance Technician Des was fired by text after an expletive-laden message exchange with his manager.

Des disputed allegations of threatening behaviour made against him by a colleague, which his manager was investigating.

After work, and on the day he had been interviewed about the allegation, Des contacted his manager by text message.

Des queried why the matter was being taken seriously, to which his manager replied that he should f*** off and deal with the s*** he had created. Other expletives were used in the message that was severely critical of Des. In reply Des used similar language.

Following the exchange of further texts Des was told he was sacked. He was instructed to stay away from work the following day. His subsequent phone calls and messages to his manager went unanswered.

Later that evening Des, who had worked for the company for seven years, received an email confirming his dismissal.

The reason stated for the decision was that he was trying to unduly influence the investigation, and his use of foul and abusive language.

Shocked Des responded to the email to argue the decision was unreasonable and claiming it was an unfair dismissal

In reply his manager said the decision was fair and that he had the evidence to prove it.

Des was dismayed, so he complained to the managing director of the company. She responded and said if he was unhappy with the decision he should appeal.

In need of help Des contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for assistance with an appeal.

After discussing the case with Des our representative agreed with his view that he had been unfairly dismissed.

Our representative wrote an appeal letter for Des, which initiated the disciplinary appeals process.

The appeal letter detailed to grounds for the appeal, which included that the decision to dismiss was unfair and breached the ACAS Code of Practice guidance. The fact this could lead to a 25 per cent increase in any compensation awarded to Des with a successful unfair dismissal claim, was also noted.

Des insisted that he did not want to return to work for the company. He said he would prefer to reach an agreement to leave, as he believed he was about to land a better job.

At the appeal hearing the background to the case was covered.

A formal grievance  had been submitted against Des by a colleague he had strained working relationship with. 

The pair were once good friends but fell out after they nearly came to blows during a night out.

They avoided each other in work, up until the point that Des found it necessary to confront his workmate about a poor job.

They had a heated exchange of words and the manager stepped in to bring it to a stop. Des thought nothing further of it.

So, he was shocked when three weeks later he was told that his colleague had submitted a grievance in relation to the incident. This led to Des being interviewed as part of the grievance investigation.

At the disciplinary appeal hearing, there was a break early on in the meeting, which the employer used to initiate an off the record conversation.

To its credit the employer accepted that it had not acted properly. The company wanted to explore if it was possible to resolve the situation.

Des’s desired outcome was explained. The company HR advisor spoke about the workplace atmosphere and working relationships.

In the circumstances it was agreed that a settlement agreement would be best for both parties.

It meant Des received a five-figure financial payment that included a tax-free lump sum and payment of his notice period. The dismissal was removed from his record and he was given a guarantee of a reference.

By the time the agreement was signed Des had landed himself a new job on a better salary. 

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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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