disciplinary after reporting concerns
Published 17 August 2023
It is not unusual for an employee to be unexpectedly told by a manager they are doing a bad job and then find their future under threat.
This is what happened to a shocked Petra, who had received positive performance reviews, before she left her role as a deputy finance director with a settlement agreement.
It followed a failed attempt by Petra’s boss to fire her in retaliation after she reported his online conduct.
The pair got on well and had a good working relationship until Petra flagged some concerns about his social media posts to a director of the company where she had worked for three years.
Her boss was spoken to about derogatory comments he posted about his ex-partner in the early hours of one morning, but no further action was taken.
He had quickly deleted the posts but not before Petra, so concerned by what she had viewed, had taken screenshots.
Shortly afterwards he stopped greeting Petra in the mornings and would only speak to her if necessary.
Petra, taking the initiative because she was starting to feel extremely uncomfortable and wanted to avoid raising a grievance, sought to have a clear the air meeting with her boss. The meeting did not go well.
Petra’s boss denied there was a problem, said he was fine with her and that it was in fact her who seemed to have a problem with him.
It was an awkward meeting, which came to an end when Petra was informed there had been a number of complaints from colleagues and clients about her work that needed to be looked at.
She was later invited to a disciplinary hearing to face an allegation of poor performance.
Petra was supported at that hearing by our representative after contacting our Employee Support Centre.
Our representative told that hearing, the action being taken against Petra was malicious and carried out by a manager with a grudge.
He detailed the breakdown in the working relationship, explained how it became strained after Petra reported legitimate concerns and how she was regularly snubbed and made to feel isolated by the manager.
Details of how Petra’s treatment could be characterised as bullying were presented at the hearing.
Our representative had discussed the case, evidence and Petra’s work- related experiences with her boss at length in preparation to support her at the hearing.
She provided details and evidence to show how she had been ridiculed and demeaned in front of colleagues, undermined and insulted behind her back.
The unfair disciplinary process being taken against Petra and the lack of evidence to justify it was cited by our representative as an abuse of power by the manager, and described as malicious and intimidating. As was the fact a fair process was not followed to address any genuine performance concerns.
The actions and harmful mental and emotional impact they had on Petra was highlighted by our representative as proof of bullying.
The evidence to support the allegation of poor performance consisted of a number of claims by her manager, which were not actually backed up with any tangible evidence.
Our representative told the disciplinary hearing the failure to provide evidence and sufficient details was a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice, which perhaps provided the best possible indication the process was unfair.
Following a comprehensive presentation in support of Petra’s case our representative demonstrated why she had lost all trust and confidence in the employer.
Petra had actively been looking for another job prior to the hearing and was confident of securing one she had been interviewed for.
She informed our representative she would like to leave her current role with a settlement agreement, and for the disciplinary process to be stopped.
Our representative initiated a discussion with the employer, which eventually allowed Petra to leave on terms she was delighted with.
Petra secured the new job, on a higher salary, the day before the settlement agreement was finally signed.