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Case Studies

Case Studies

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Correcting a manager’s poor conduct in the unfair handling of performance concerns

Published 16 November 2022

Jess won the desperate fight to save her job following months of struggling at work and after being dubbed ‘crazy.’

The office worker said she had been insulted and felt bullied before allegations of her being threatening and intimidating towards her manager were eventually dismissed

A disciplinary hearing  arranged to deal with the allegations, was reluctantly put on hold following the intervention of our representative.

Jess and her boss had a bust-up when she was informed her work was poor, and she was going to be put on performance management.

It happened at a time when Jess was struggling with the symptoms of depression, which she had suffered with for many years.

Jess knew she could not deal with the situation on her own, and contacted our Employee Support Centre for help.

Jess admitted to our representative her work performance had been underpar as a result of her poor mental health, said her employer was fully aware of this, but had not provided any meaningful support. Jess claimed her female manager bullied and insulted her instead.

The final straw came when after months of threatening to performance manage Jess, her boss finally confirmed she was going to do so. Jess objected.

She admitted that discussion, which took place just between the pair with no one else present, got heated.

It boiled over when Jess said her manager, who was dismissive of her mental health struggles, repeatedly called her crazy.

Jess described it as provocation, which she accepts caused her to lose her cool and say things she probably should not have. She was suspended from work following the incident.

Our representative was concerned after hearing the background to the case, and he advised Jess to raise a grievance before the disciplinary hearing took place.

The grievance was on grounds, which included discrimination because of a disability and other aspects of unfair treatment.

Jess’s depression could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 because she had suffered with it longer than 12 months.

Our representative submitted the grievance and requested the disciplinary process be put on hold until the grievance was resolved.

He said it was the prudent way forward, as if the grievance grounds were upheld it could have consequences and significant bearing on the disciplinary process.

The employer initially rejected the proposal and said it would deal with the grievance after the disciplinary hearing.

It triggered an exchange of correspondence, which led the employer to eventually agree to deal with the grievance first.

Our representative talked through the grievance case at length with Jess in order to identify and gather appropriate evidence to support her case at the grievance hearing.

Jess had evidence of periods of sickness absence caused by depression and subsequent return to work interviews, notes of 121s with her manager showing discussions around performance and a couple of emails to her boss detailing her despair and struggles and pleas for help.

What Jess did not have, and proved to be the difference in this case, was anything that showed her manager ever responded in a supportive or helpful manner.

Our representative used all of this evidence and information in his comprehensive presentation of Jess’s grievance and to assert she was vulnerable, had been let down, been treated unfairly and as it was linked to her disability it amounted to unlawful discrimination.

The relevance of this to the disciplinary case was explained, and used to maintain it would be grossly unfair to proceed with that process in the circumstances.

The grievance hearing chair appeared reasonable and genuinely surprised by what he heard. He vowed to review everything.

Two weeks later Jess was invited to a meeting to discuss the grievance outcome. Key parts of her grievance were upheld and other parts, such as the ‘crazy’ comment from the manager, rejected because of a lack or corroboration.

The meeting led to Jess later returning to work in the same department for a new manager, and with agreed support put in place. The disciplinary case was dropped.

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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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