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Fighting a way out of disciplinary trouble and beating bullying tactics

Published 05 October 2022

Many businesses have faced tough challenges in recent times but it can never be a legitimate excuse to mistreat staff.

Clarion left her job, on her terms, after being threatened with dismissal for refusing to be bullied into taking a wage cut.

The data administrator, with four years’ service, exited with a settlement agreement after her employer initiated a sham disciplinary process in response to the stance she took.

The trouble started after Clarion’s employer had reviewed and restructured its operation, conducted a redundancy process and a number of employees were dismissed. Clarion survived and retained her position.

About seven weeks later she was invited via email to ‘a quick catch up’ meeting with her manager.

Clarion explained to our representative, who she spoke to after contacting the Employee Support Centre, that she was shocked by what she was told at the meeting.

She was informed the business was still in trouble and she would have to accept a significant salary reduction or leave.

Clarion refused, was told to think about, she did so, and at a second meeting reiterated her refusal to accept the proposal.

It seemed to be the end of the matter…well for one week at least.

During an unrelated work meeting, her manager raised the matter again. Clarion again refused the proposal.

She had not told anyone about the situation, so was stunned and understandably furious when a colleague quizzed her about why she was refusing to take a pay cut.

The reason for Clarion doing what she did next was later explained by our representative at a grievance meeting.

She confronted her manager about what she felt was a serious breach of confidentiality.

It led to a heated row between the pair, which resulted in Clarion facing disciplinary allegations of aggressive and threatening behaviour towards her manager. He was the only witness against her in the case.

She was invited to a disciplinary hearing and warned dismissal was a potential outcome. This led to Clarion contacting us for help.

Our representative raised a grievance on behalf of Clarion after reviewing the case with her.

The grounds for grievance included breach of confidentiality, feeling bullied and intimidated to accept a wage cut and being put through an unfair disciplinary process for refusing to be browbeaten into accepting unfavourable employment terms.

The grievance letter requested the disciplinary process be suspended in accordance with section 46 of the ACAS Code of Practice.

Our representative maintained doing so was prudent and fair, as if the grievance were upheld or partly upheld it would have ramifications and bearing on the disciplinary process.

The employer instead opted to hear the grievance first followed by the disciplinary hearing on the same day, which it is entitled to do.

At the grievance hearing our representative detailed and highlighted how a fair process was not followed in attempting to change Clarion’s salary.

In an emphatic presentation he detailed how the treatment of Clarion met the definition of bullying and intimidation, was alarming and distressing and completely unreasonable.

This was emphasised by the disciplinary allegations, triggered by the manager’s serious breach of confidentiality and what was his dismissive and aggressive response when Clarion reasonably challenged him about it.

Our representative maintained Clarion was justified to be concerned and the disciplinary allegations made by the manager were malicious to deflect from his own wrongdoing.

Clarion was realistic and believed when she refused the first request to take a pay cut the writing was on the wall, so started looking for a new job.

She made it clear to our representative her desired grievance outcome was to reach a settlement agreement.

The discussion about a settlement started at the end of the grievance hearing and it led to the disciplinary hearing being postponed. An agreement was eventually reached.

Clarion was allowed to leave on terms she was happy with and without facing disciplinary action.

On the day the agreement was signed, Clarion landed a new job.

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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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