Disciplinary action adds insult to injury
Published 03 June 2020
Regardless of who we are or what we do for a living sometimes frustration can get the better of us - and in some cases it can lead to serious trouble.
Family support worker Gayle’s irritation at her manager after her boss challenged her account of how she broke her foot at work, left her fighting to save her 20-year career.
It forced Gayle to contact the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre because she feared being dismissed from the job she loved.
The council employee tripped and broke a bone in her foot while returning to her car with a colleague after a home visit to a client.
The householder said it was an accident waiting to happen. He said he had informed the council of the poor condition of the pavement numerous times and been ignored.
Gayle reported the accident to her employer and she was off work for about two months.
During her return to work interview Gayle was quizzed about the accident. Her manager quickly pointed out that Gayle originally said she fell on the pavement as she walked to the car, whereas now she said it was in the road as she went to get into the car.
According to Gayle her boss suggested that she was exaggerating the claim to get as much compensation as she could.
It led to an argument in the manager’s office, which was overheard by colleagues. Gayle left the office in tears and went to the toilet.
Shortly after returning to her workstation she was summoned to her manager’s office and suspended from work for aggressive behaviour.
Gayle apologised immediately and explained that she was upset because she felt that she was being called a liar. She was told she would get an opportunity to explain herself at a later date.
During the disciplinary investigation Gayle was invited to attend an investigation meeting also known as a fact-finding meeting.
Gayle admitted reacting, being upset and raising her voice and blamed it on provocation by her manager. She expressed remorse and apologised.
Two weeks later Gayle was notified she was required to attend a disciplinary hearing. The allegation was aggressive and threatening behaviour towards a colleague.
Witness statements from colleagues simply said they heard raised voices from both women in the office. And Gayle’s manager blamed Gayle for what happened, while Gayle blamed her.
Our representative accompanied Gayle at the disciplinary hearing. He told the meeting that the evidence and mitigation in the case should mean that Gayle is cleared of the allegation.
He refereed to the evidence to highlight the significant mitigation in the case: Gayle was vulnerable after a lengthy period off work; she was effectively accused of lying about her accident and exaggerating for financial gain; both her colleague who was present and the householder supported Gayle’s original version of the accident; and she may have made an honest mistake in recounting the incident two months later.
Our representative added that Gayle had expressed remorse and apologised for her actions, had over 20 years’ service and an exemplary disciplinary record and her reaction was completely out of character.
The hearing panel was told that it is effectively Gayle’s word against that of her manager about who was to blame. It was pointed out that as there was no corroboration one way or the other the panel did not have to believe one woman and disbelieve the other. Employment law guidance on such situations was referred to.
Our representative said that Gayle was willing to work with her manager and take part in mediation if necessary to address any issues arising from the case.
The disciplinary panel discussed the case at length and asked Gayle a series of questions about the incident.
The hearing was adjourned and after a lengthy break Gayle was informed that the allegation against her had been dismissed. She was issued with informal advice about her future conduct.
Gayle’s injury meant she was no longer as active as she once was and she later received a five-figure compensation payment for her personal injury claim.
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