Fighting to save your job when the odds are stacked against you
Published 07 November 2017
There are some workplace acts committed by an employee that are usually considered indefensible.
So when Paul punched and knocked out a colleague at the Sheffield depot where he worked he accepted that the outcome was inevitable. He was suspended from work immediately and believed his fate was sealed.
Employers will normally print a non-exhaustive list of acts of gross misconduct in a disciplinary policy. Any form of violence or a physical attack on a colleague will usually be near the top of that list.
However our representatives at Castle Associates will always look to establish why any act has taken place. The background to an incident can be crucial and provide significant mitigation when representing an employee.
A fair disciplinary process should give consideration to any mitigating factors. As they can significantly influence the sanction or corrective action deemed necessary.
Our representative’s priority is always to gain a quick and clear understanding of a case in order to identify any evidence to support an employee’s case
Paul was used to abusive language, near the knuckle banter and name calling at work, and he often gave as good as he got. However, after a boozy work night out things started to get a bit personal with one colleague.
The workmate made fun of the fact Paul and his wife only had one child and of a birthmark on the little girl’s face. Paul did not react at the time.
The following day the colleague was verbally abusive and made the same personal and hurtful remarks about Paul’s wife and child. Paul told his colleague in very blunt terms to go away and reported him to the manager.
The depot workers are all part of a WhatsApp group and later that evening the colleague posted comments calling Paul a grass before making further derogatory comments about his wife and child.
This was reported to the manager again. The abusive colleague later approached Paul and threatened him, which was heard by another worker.
He again took to WhatsApp to direct more abuse at Paul and also threatened to ‘do him some damage’ the next time he saw him.
The next day the two men had a verbal altercation and the colleague swung a punch at Paul. Other workers alerted to the subsequent fight outside of the depot ran out to separate them and saw Paul throw a punch that floored his attacker. Paul was immediately suspended.
Paul was invited to attend an investigation meeting and admitted hitting his colleague, but claimed he acted in self-defence. The manager showed no interest in the background to the incident, and focused solely on the fight that had taken place.
Paul was then invited to a disciplinary hearing and warned the allegation of physical assault could lead to his dismissal.
He contacted Castle Associates for a free consultation and support. Upon speaking to Paul to get the background to his case our representative noted the extreme provocation he had faced and that there was evidence in the form of the WhatsApp messages that would help to support his mitigation.
Our representative identified that none of the witnesses saw who threw the first punch and that they commented only on how the fight ended. It was case of Paul’s word against his colleague as to how the fight started.
The colleague claimed Paul struck him first, he was innocent and had done nothing to deserve it and that Paul was the aggressor.
At the hearing our representative presented Paul’s case and was able to get the employer to consider the background to the incident. She highlighted the fact that none of the witnesses saw who threw the first punch and that based on Paul’s account, the evidence and previous threats made towards him it was reasonable to assert that the colleague was the aggressor.
Paul was cleared of any wrongdoing but warned about his future conduct. The employer saw the WhatsApp messages for the first time at the disciplinary hearing, but before the colleague could be disciplined he resigned.
Paul thanked our representative for her invaluable support and for helping him to keep the roof over his head, as his biggest fear was that he would not be able to pay his mortgage had he been dismissed.