Finding the right words to resolve a disciplinary case that threatened to get out of hand.
Published 01 September 2023
Retail security officer Bobby was not the first person, and will certainly not be the last, to say something in the heat of the moment he would later regret.
When he commented in front of colleagues that he was going to kill his cousin, who worked for the same employer, it was a throwaway comment he certainly did not mean.
But when management were made aware of what Bobby had said, he was immediately suspended from work.
It was an overreaction to a situation, which seemed to set the tone for what was to follow.
The allegation levelled against Bobby, who had 11 years’ service, was threatening behaviour in making a threat to kill a colleague.
Bobby, despite being convinced he had done nothing wrong, was obviously fearful of the outcome having been ordered to stay away from work, and being informed there would be a disciplinary investigation.
It was also not the first time he had faced, what he maintained, was an unfair disciplinary allegation.
He left his last job while subject to disciplinary action after a former colleague decided to raise a grievance against him.
Bobby was supported on that occasion by one of our representatives, who helped him to reach a settlement agreement to resolve all matters involved in that case.
The invaluable support Bobby got at that time, meant he knew exactly where to turn to for support with the new allegation he was facing.
When Bobby contacted our Employee Support Centre for help, he provided our representative with the evidence being used in the case against him.
It consisted of four witness statements from colleagues who were in the work canteen and present at the time Bobby made the comment.
All of the witnesses confirmed they heard Bobby made what was being viewed as a threat.
It was made after Bobby learnt his cousin owed another employee, involved in the discussion, money and had not paid him back.
Bobby was also owed money by his cousin who had repeatedly promised to repay it, but had failed to do so.
It was as a result of the shock at what Bobby heard, and anger and frustration at his situation with his male cousin that he made the comment he was going to kill him when he saw him.
Somehow Bobby’s relative heard about what had been said, complained to management and claimed he was too scared to attend work.
Worried Bobby was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing, at which he was supported by our representative.
Bobby and our representative believed the witness statements did not give a fair or accurate reflection of what was said during the incident.
So ahead of the disciplinary hearing, our representative made a request for the four witnesses to attend the hearing in accordance with section 12 of the ACAS Code of Practice.
Two of the witnesses agreed to attend the hearing and answer questions put to them, which they did, and written questions were put to the other two.
All of the witnesses confirmed they did not take what Bobby said seriously and understood he was upset, angry and frustrated.
The witness also owed money by Bobby’s cousin said he could sympathise with what he said, because he had repeatedly been lied to when trying to get back the money he was owed.
This was used along with other mitigation such as Bobby’s remorse and apology for being involved in a matter that had given the employer cause for concern; his previous good character and work record; long length of service and exemplary disciplinary record; and learning he had taken from the incident, were all cited to assert that he should not face any disciplinary sanction.
The disciplinary hearing chair was also shown messages between Bobby and his cousin, which showed reasonable attempts to recover the money had proved fruitless.
Bobby was later cleared of the allegation.