Failing to see the funny side of a mistimed joke
Published 24 October 2018
As a delivery driver Ravi was used to delivering welcome gifts to householders and he certainly had something to celebrate when he received some good news of his own in the post.
Our representative helped to ensure the disciplinary outcome letter posted to Ravi’s home address contained the news he so desperately wanted.
Ravi, who had three years’ service at the time, faced allegations of lying to his manager and that this breached the trust and confidence expected of him. He was warned dismissal was a possible outcome.
The disciplinary case centred on a text mistakenly sent by Ravi to his boss. The text was intended for Ravi’s brother, who has the same name.
Surprisingly the company did not carry out a disciplinary investigation before taking action against Ravi. It was move that would later be used to support his case.
The employer maintained Ravi ‘misled his line manager’ while our representative asserted the text was nothing more than a joke.
During a spell of hot weather Ravi, who is asthmatic, experienced an irregular heartbeat and suffered a shortness of breath.
Ravi was off work for about 10 days. He kept his manager updated as required by the company’s absence management process.
Ravi’s problem started the day before he was due back in work. He mistakenly sent a text to his manager which said ‘had a great week on holiday’, grateful for the break and some much needed sun and relaxation.
Ravi only realised his mistake when his boss called him to query the text. He explained it was joke meant for his brother. Ravi did not give it a second thought.
Three weeks after returning to work Ravi had a disagreement with a colleague. The workmate complained to the manager and said Ravi was bully, a liar, out of order, had upset him and should be sacked. When Ravi was called to his manager’s office he was dismissive of the complaint and described it as a joke.
Two days later the manager called Ravi back into his office and handed him a letter. It informed Ravi that he was required to attend a disciplinary hearing. The letter alleged Ravi had been dishonest about his illness.
Ravi protested his innocence and said the allegation was ridiculous. He claimed it felt as if he was being forced out of the job, which was constructive dismissal.
Ravi was understandably upset and he said he would bring his brother, who is a solicitor, with him to the disciplinary hearing. The manager tod Ravi he would not be allowed to as he could only be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing by a trade union representative or work colleague.
Prior to the hearing Ravi contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative expressed her surprise that the case had reached this stage, because if the company had followed its own disciplinary process the matter could have been resolved.
The company disciplinary policy said it will always hold an investigation meeting to establish the facts before a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing our representative maintained if an investigation meeting had taken place, the matter could easily have been cleared up.
She referred to a copy of Ravi’s fit note to show that he was genuinely ill and produced copies of text messages between Ravi and his brother to demonstrate the type of banter between the two. It included jokey and clearly exaggerated comments about situations and topics.
Our representative also raised concerns about the timing of the allegations so soon after a compliant was made against Ravi and three weeks after he had returned to work.
The disciplinary hearing chair initially appeared not to be convinced that the text was sent in error. He repeatedly said he could not understand why Ravi would make such a joke if he was really ill.
The hearing chair said he would write to Ravi with the outcome within five working days. Ravi was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
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