Finding the right words to bring a working relationship to a happy end
Published 20 February 2019
When disciplinary allegations come to light it can often mark the end of a working relationship even if there is no substance to the allegations.
Clive had worked for a car hire company for 12 years without incident before his employment eventually came to an agreeable finish.
He left the business with a settlement agreement after facing disciplinary action for comments he made in a WhatsApp group.
A colleague complained about something Clive had said about him on the messaging service.
At a disciplinary hearing Clive faced an allegation of making an offensive comment and directing foul and abusive language at his workmate.
The employee who complained went off work sick after claiming the comment had made him ill. He claimed he was unable to work with Clive.
As a result Clive was moved to another branch while the company carried out a disciplinary investigation.
As part of that investigation the investigating manager was provided with copies of messages that Clive and his colleague had exchanged in the group, which was made up of eight employees.
In those messages, which were not work related, Clive used a dated and offensive word once used to describe a person with learning disabilities to explain the way he thought his colleague was acting.
When his workmate responded to say he found it offensive, Clive replied that he should f*** off if he does not like it.
Prior to his disciplinary hearing Clive contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
Our representative met with Clive prior to the disciplinary hearing in order to discuss the case, review the evidence against him and to discover if there was any evidence available that may help his case.
During the meeting Clive showed our representative messages from other members of the group that were far more expletive-laden, insulting and directed at other members of the group.
Carl explained that when he showed the messages to the investigating manager during an investigation meeting, the manager was dismissive and disinterested. He told Clive it did not matter what others did as the focus was on Clive’s behaviour.
Our representative felt this was unfair and he discussed raising a formal grievance on the basis that Clive was being singled out and could therefore justifiably claim he was being victimised.
A grievance was submitted by our representative on Clive’s behalf. Within the grievance our representative referred to section 46 of the ACAS Code of Practice and asked for the disciplinary process to suspended until the grievance was resolved, as it could have serious implications for the disciplinary process if it was upheld.
The company agreed to hear the grievance first. Our representatives will always seek to help the employee achieve their desired outcome, and in this case Clive’s was to be able to leave with a settlement agreement and without having to go through with a disciplinary hearing. He had started looking for alternative employment prior to the incident.
At the grievance hearing our representative presented evidence in the form of printed screenshots of offensive messages and comments written by other employees in the WhatsApp group.
The disciplinary investigation meeting that Clive attended was voice recorded. Our representative presented a section of the transcript in which the investigating manager made it clear he was not interested in the messages sent by other members of staff.
This was used to highlight an inconsistent and unfair approach to disciplinary matters by the company and to argue that Clive was being treated less favourably than his colleagues.
Our representative initiated a conversation about a settlement agreement and put forward a proposal on Clive’s behalf. The company originally rejected the proposal, but made a counter offer.
In the following days the negotiations continued and an agreement - that included a tax free lump sum payment - which Clive was eventually happy with was reached.
Clive signed the agreement later the same week, and he got a job offer later the same day.
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