Fixing the damage when a repair threatens to have disastrous consequences
Published 23 August 2023
The odds were stacked as gas engineer Julian when he faced a fight to save his job after telling a tenant to f*** off.
He regrettably snapped after constant criticism, which included everything from his hairstyle to his workmanship.
Julian faced an allegation of aggressive and unacceptable behaviour when invited to attend a disciplinary hearing.
He was warned that if proven the allegation would amount to gross misconduct and a potential outcome was dismissal.
Julian was fearful that after 16 years of unblemished service he could lose a job he loved, and had done since leaving school.
When worried Julian contacted our Employee Support Centre he feared the worst, and actually apologised for wasting our representative’s time.
Julian was convinced the outcome was a forgone conclusion, which was understandable.
Our representative reviewed the minutes from the fact-finding meeting that took place with Julian as part of the disciplinary investigation.
It was documented that he accepted snapping at the tenant during what was his third visit to the property for the same repair.
The customer was obviously unhappy the job was not done first time, and blamed Julian.
He described how the female tenant had ‘moaned at him non-stop’ on every visit to the property.
It included questioning his competence and stating he should spend more time learning to do the job rather than on his appearance.
Julian lost his cool when the woman said that she bets his parents are proud about how useless he is and that next time she will ask for another engineer.
He told her it would be a pleasure never to see her again and swore at her.
The tenant submitted a complaint, and Julian was immediately suspended from work by the housing association he worked for.
Even with the most serious of allegations and acceptance of wrongdoing by an employee there can be important mitigation in a case, which makes a significant difference. And so there was in this case.
Our representative in exploring any possible mitigation with Julian, learnt about bereavements he had suffered about 18 months earlier and the harmful long-term impact on his mental and emotional well-being.
Julian had lost his grandmother, who raised him, and a childhood friend in the space of two weeks. His mental health suffered and it resulted in him taking three months off work.
A short time later he was diagnosed with a depressive disorder and prescribed medication.
At the time of the allegation Julian was undergoing medical tests for physical symptoms he was suffering with.
Our representative told the disciplinary hearing that Julian’s depressive disorder could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
He asserted it played a direct role in what occurred, as his ability to deal with the challenging situation with the tenant was undoubtedly impaired by his disability.
The hearing was told by our representative the fears Julian had about his health at the time, coupled with a difficult and verbally abusive customer, exacerbated the symptoms of his disability and greatly reduced his ability to cope.
Our representative pointed out the employer was aware of Julian’s mental health struggles but had not provided any meaningful support, which was also an aggravating factor in the case. He added that in the circumstances an unfair disciplinary sanction could amount to disability discrimination.
In addition to this, our representative told the hearing Julian accepted he had done wrong and would not dispute a disciplinary warning.
The hearing was told Julian was remorseful and apologetic, the behaviour was completely out of character, he had taken appropriate learning from what occurred and he was a long-serving employee with an exemplary disciplinary record who deserved a second chance and support.
The employer asked a number of questions in relation to the allegation. Julian was referred to occupational health (OH) before a disciplinary outcome was reached.
The subsequent OH report confirmed he had a depressive disorder and was likely to be covered by the Equality Act.
Julian was later issued with a written warning.