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Finding the hidden evidence in a message to ensure justice is served

Published 27 January 2021
Marketing executive Selina knew the value of words, creating a good impression and the importance of sending the right message.

So, it can be seen as ironic that an inappropriate WhatsApp message led her to contact the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre in desperate need of help.

Selina was in a WhatsApp group with seven colleagues. Messages exchanged discussed work and matters outside of work. Selina was one of the more active members of the group.

All members of the group were dismissed after their employer became aware of an offensive video and message about a member of management posted in the group chat.

The message referred to, and mocked, the individual’s mental stability and accent.

Selina did not send the video, but she was dismissed along with her colleagues for bullying.

Management insisted that as Selina was a member of the group, and did not report the message, it breached company policy to treat all colleagues with dignity and respect.

Selina was adamant that she had not seen the video clip until she was shown it by her manager just before she was suspended from work.

The message was sent when she had taken time off work to move house.

Screenshots of subsequent messages showed that unlike all of the other members of the group, Selina did not comment on the offensive message.

In fact her first contribution to the group chat after the message in question was sent, was three days later.

It was in response to news that the company had announced it was starting a redundancy consultation process.

There were a significant number of messages exchanged between members of the group, on different topics, in the days after the inappropriate message was sent and before Selina’s comment on the redundancy proposal news.

Selina said at her disciplinary hearing she had not seen the offensive message. She explained that she was busy moving house at the time, when she eventually checked the group chat she responded to the redundancy news, got caught up in that discussion and did not look back at previous messages.

Her explanation was not accepted and Selina was dismissed. She submitted an appeal, which initiated the disciplinary appeals process.

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