Any complaint of abuse of a vulnerable individual must be taken seriously and for those wrongly accused it can be a horrific experience.
Latoya had worked with young people with learning disabilities for just over two years when it was alleged she assaulted an agitated male teenager in her care.
She was accused of pushing him into a wall and pulling his hair.
The teenager who had a history of making false accusations against staff sustained no injuries and there were no witnesses to the alleged incident.
Latoya vehemently protested her innocence, but was immediately suspended from work.
The local authority was notified, as the allegation was one of harm to a young person in care, and the police informed.
Latoya was interviewed by police officers but no further action was taken against her.
Latoya’s employer put its own disciplinary investigation on hold to allow the police investigation to take place first.
When the police concluded its investigation, Latoya was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing at work to face an allegation of assault. It was eight months after she had been suspended
Latoya was shocked because she believed as the police were taking no action it was the end of the matter.
However, given the serious nature of the allegation the employer wanted to conduct its own investigation, which it is entitled to do.
The burden of proof in a criminal matter and employment matter are different.
In a criminal case an allegation has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, in employment matters it is reached on a reasonable belief following a reasonable investigation.
Latoya initially asked an experienced colleague to attend the disciplinary hearing with her. She has a statutory right to be accompanied at such a meeting.
However, her colleague admitted she felt ill-equipped to support Latoya because of the seriousness of the allegation.
Instead she provided Latoya with the contact details for the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre.
When Latoya met with our representative she provided him with all of the evidence to support the allegation against her. The main evidence was in the form of witness statements.
As none of her colleagues actually witnessed the alleged incident, the witness accounts were based on what they had been told or witnessed after the incident.
Our representatives are experts in supporting employees facing disciplinary action at work after being arrested.
After discussing the case with Latoya our representative reviewed and assessed all of the evidence, paperwork and policies provided as evidence.
At the disciplinary hearing, the fact no action was taken by the police, there were no witnesses to the incident, no injuries to the young person, his known history for making false allegations and Latoya’s excellent work record were highlighted in maintaining the allegation was unfounded.
Crucial parts of the witness evidence were also presented to argue the allegation should be dismissed.
It included one witness who reported how the young person apologised for lying about what happened; two witnesses who initially looked into the allegation and concluded it did not happen and noted in the daily log book it was the end of the matter; and another member of staff who spoke to the young person immediately afterwards and said there were no signs he had been assaulted.
Our representative maintained there was overwhelming evidence to show Latoya did not act as alleged.
The comprehensive presentation of Latoya’s case by our representative meant she was only asked a few simple questions by the disciplinary hearing chair.
Latoya was later cleared of the allegation. Given how she had been treated and how long the process had taken she felt she could not return to her role.
It led to our representative initiating a conversation with the employer regarding a settlement agreement. Following some negotiation an agreement was later reached.