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Case Studies

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Facing disciplinary action following a bungled investigation by management

Published 15 August 2018

Barney would be the first to admit that he didn’t always see eye to eye with his boss in a boisterous and volatile workplace.

The pair had disagreements, rows but generally worked well together. They also shared a laugh and a joke at the workshop where they worked.

During a disciplinary investigation Barney accepted that he reacted angrily when he was wrongly accused of lying to cover up damage he allegedly caused to a colleague’s car.

Our representative later argued that in playing amateur detective the manager had bungled the case and identified the wrong suspect.

Barney accepted that he could see why the finger was being pointed at him, but insisted he was innocent.

The vehicle in the company car park was scratched, dented and had a back light smashed.

The damage was not reported at the time it occurred. The car owner only noticed it when he left work for the day. Barney had left five minutes earlier.

Barney was asked by his manager the following day if he was responsible. He denied that he was. Unbeknown to Barney his manager inspected his car afterwards.

The car park, also used by visitors, is covered by CCTV but it was claimed the cameras were not working on the day. No one accepted responsibility for causing the damage.

The manager launched an investigation to identify the culprit. The visitors' book was checked. No one had visited the workshop and signed in between the time the owner of the vehicle claimed he last saw his car undamaged up until the time that the damage was first noticed.

Just over a week after the incident Barney was called into the office and blamed for causing the damage. He was furious, protested his innocence and let his manger know in no uncertain terms what he thought of the allegation.

Barney was suspended from work for being verbally abusive and threatening to his manager.

He was later notified that he was required to attend a disciplinary hearing to be chaired by an independent HR consultant.

Barney was provided with the evidence of the manager’s investigation. It included a brief CCTV clip, including the date and time, from a neighboring business showing his car leaving the car park just before the damage to the colleague’s car was first reported.

Barney was accused of causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage to the car and lying to cover it up. It was also alleged he used threatening behaviour towards his manager.

Barney contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help.

After reviewing the evidence our representative asked the company for the full CCTV footage from the time the employee said he last saw his car undamaged up until the time he finished work.

The footage revealed that in that time two cars and a van had entered and left the car park before Barney did.

At the hearing our representative argued there was no evidence to support the claim Barney caused the damage to the car. The drivers of the other vehicles captured in the CCTV footage were never spoken to or their vehicles inspected.

The manager’s statement claimed he noticed damage to Barney’s car the day after. Barney denied this and our representative told the hearing there was no independent evidence to support the claim.

Our representative maintained Barney’s response to his manager when the allegation was first put to him was in keeping with the verbal exchanges between the two. The manager’s statement only highlighted abusive language used by Barney. Our representative pointed out the manager never claimed he felt threatened, and this was a misrepresentation of his statement.

It was also made clear that Barney was upset at being unfairly accused, regretted his response and was willing to apolgise to his manager if he caused any offence.

The subsequent investigation cleared Barney of any wrongdoing. However, the investigation identified concerns about the workplace culture, banter and language used and made recommendations in relation to this.

 

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A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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