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Case Studies

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Disciplined for reaction to bullying

Published 22 August 2018

When reacting to a bad taste joke by bullies leads to a fight to save your job
Kyle was said to be brandishing a kitchen knife when he confronted and threatened a workmate after a practical joke at work backfired.
His reaction was in response to a bad taste and childish prank, which was filmed on a mobile phone.  It was not the first time this had happened to him.

However, this time was different, as it also involved Kyle’s wife. It had a devastating impact on her and caused unnecessary alarm and distress.

The bad taste joke left Kyle facing the threat of dismissal and a desperate fight to save his job.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative maintained there were significant mitigating factors that resulted in Kyle to acting out of character.
Some colleagues managed to get hold of his unlocked mobile phone at work and thought it would be funny to send a text message to Kyle’s wife as a wind-up.
One worker filmed the others with Kyle’s phone as they laughed and joked about what they were going to do.

Kyle’s wife was then sent a text message, which in summary informed her that he was leaving her for a gay colleague, the wedding was a mistake and he was sorry for lying to her.

When Kyle’s wife read the message she was at work at the time. She was shocked and frantically tried to contact him. She immediately called her husband’s phone.

Kyle’s wife made repeated calls to his phone. His colleagues filmed the phone screen as her name continually flashed up as she called. They laughed and joked in the background.
Kyle worked in the kitchen for a restaurant chain. His worried wife phoned the restaurant and the male member of staff who took the call was in on the joke. When he went to tell Kyle his wife had called, he blurted out what they had done.
Kyle, who was chopping onions at the time, was understandably furious. He was angry, threatened the colleague and all of those involved.
He was later suspended from work and notified he was required to attend a disciplinary hearing.
At the hearing our representative argued that there was evidence to support a claim from Kyle that he was being targeted and bullied by colleagues.
On other occasions one of his eyebrows was shaved off by workmates after a drunken night out and on another they hid a dead fish in his car. Both incidents were filmed and shared. Kyle was annoyed but did not complaint at the time.

It was asserted by our representative that the treatment Kyle was subjected to did mean that he had legitimate grounds for a grievance.

The employees described it as ‘banter’ but it was argued that this type of behaviour went well beyond what can be considered good natured teasing.
In preparation for the disciplinary hearing our representative asked Kyle’s wife to write an impact statement. He also requested a statement from her colleague who was with her at the time. He asked both to include contact details and confirm they are happy to answer any questions from the employer, which both did.
It was argued that Kyle was chopping onions at the time of the incident and did not brandish the knife in a threatening manner. It was pointed out that there was no evidence to suggest he ever did so.

A copy of the video of the employees involved in the text to Kyle’s wife was also played to the disciplinary hearing chair.
Our representative maintained there was extreme provocation in the case, Kyle had apologised, was remorseful, was a trusted employee, had eight years’ service and had a clean disciplinary record and his reaction was completely out of character.

The chair of the disciplinary hearing was very reasonable and accepted that Kyle reacted to serious provocation. He cleared him of any wrongdoing and vowed to initiate an investigation into those involved in the incident.

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