Disciplinary action when the reasons for it do not add up
Published 16 February 2022
Ideally you should be able to tell a work colleague they have done something wrong without fear of repercussions.
When the steel construction firm Alice worked for produced a business case for redundancy, she noticed some of the figures quoted were incorrect.
Conscientious Alice informed the director who wrote the document, which was due to be presented to staff.
As a senior manager Alice had access to information about how the business had been performing.
Alice believed she was being helpful in highlighting the error, and was surprised by the response.
The director insisted the figures were all correct, she was wrong, and he made it clear Alice should mind her own business.
Shocked Alice raised the matter with another director, which led to the figures eventually being rectified.
It should really have been the end of the matter, but unfortunately it was not.
When Alice contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help, she explained how it was a trigger for events that eventually led to her dismissal.
Alice, who had worked for the company for five years, was later invited to a meeting with the same director. It was said to be about a departmental restructure.
But when Alice attended she was told it was a consultation meeting as part of the redundancy consultation process.
Alice objected, because she had not been given notice it was a consultation meeting. She was upset because she had been given no time to prepare for it. The director insisted the meeting would go ahead.
Concerned Alice appealed for help from the HR advisor present, she did not intervene. Subsequently Alice refused to participate in the meeting. As a result she was suspended from work by the director
Days later Alice was invited to a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of gross insubordination.
The hearing was due to be chaired by the same director who had produced the wrong redundancy figures and had suspended Alice.
Alice believed it was unfair because he appeared to have a grudge against her ever since she pointed out his mistake.
The director had deliberately ignored Alice ever since, and the first time he spoke to her after that was at the meeting where she was suspended.
Alice raised a grievance. She alleged she was being treated unfairly by the director and would not get a reasonable disciplinary hearing with him as chair.
The employer insisted the grievance was mitigation in the disciplinary case, and it would be dealt with as such.
At the disciplinary hearing the allegation of gross insubordination was upheld and Alice was dismissed.
Our representative submitted an appeal on behalf of Alice. The grounds for appeal were that the decision to dismiss her was unfair as was the disciplinary hearing and also that the sanction was unduly harsh
Prior to any disciplinary appeal hearing our representatives are always keen to understand what an employee’s desired outcome is.
In Alice’s case she wanted to reach a settlement agreement with the company. She had lost all trust and confidence in the business, did not want the job back, but was keen to avoid employment tribunal proceedings if possible.
At the appeal hearing our representative presented a comprehensive case to demonstrate the decision to dismiss Alice was unfair.
It included: highlighting the director’s treatment of Alice ever since she pointed out his mistake; the fact he had deliberately ignored her since, which can constitute bullying in the same way as his abuse of power in suspending Alice and the manner in which it was done; the handling of the grievance and it effectively being considered by the person it was against; and the fact the disciplinary hearing could not be considered fair as the decision was made by the subject of the grievance.
At the end of the appeal hearing our representative initiated a discussion about a settlement agreement, which was agreed and signed off two weeks later.