Case Studies

Case Studies

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Help is at hand for the boss accused of wrongdoing

Published 28 February 2018

While managers may be used to conducting disciplinary proceedings against staff they do occasionally find themselves on the wrong end of the allegations.

Our representatives at Castle Associates are used to representing individuals from the shop-floor to director level.

So when Lydia, a facilities manager in Hampshire, found herself facing disciplinary action she contacted our employee support centre for help.

It was alleged that Lydia had sworn at another female manager before assaulting and threatening the woman with violence.

Although she was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing it was the start of a four-month nightmare for Lydia.

Lydia was suspended from work when she met with our representative and provided him with all of the evidence and paperwork to support the allegations in the disciplinary case.

Lydia admitted that she had been involved in a heated row with the colleague in an office in front of other senior employees. The disagreement was about who was responsible for failing to complete an administrative task.

It was a heated two-way and frank exchange of views, which included the use of expletives by both women.

The argument came to an abrupt end when the colleague resorted to name calling and Lydia walked out of the office.

Most of what happened next was captured on CCTV. The footage showed Lydia walking towards a door that leads to a stairway to the cafe on the floor below.

Just a few seconds later the other manager is seen walking hurriedly towards the same stairway in pursuit of Lydia. There are no CCTV cameras on the stairs.

About 15 seconds later the same camera shows the other manager walking out of the door to the stairway, before stopping to look at her mobile phone.

The following day Lydia and he colleague were asked to explain their behaviour after a complaint was made by an employee who witnessed the argument.

It was then that the other manager made her allegations. She claimed that on the stairs Lydia grabbed her by the throat pinned her to the wall and threatened to hurt her if she ever spoke to her like that again. She claimed she fled in tears and was unable to work for the rest of the afternoon.

Lydia was suspended the same day and the employer started a disciplinary investigation.

At the subsequent investigation meeting Lydia categorically denied the allegation. She explained that her colleague remained standing at the top of the stairs and shouted obscenities at her, which she responded to before both went in separate directions. There were no witnesses to what happened on the stairs.

Three witness statements confirmed a heated argument took place in the office and it ended with hurtful name calling directed at Lydia before she walked off.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative argued that it was not uncommon for such arguments to occur in the workplace due to the pressure of the working environment. He highlighted that what was highly unusual was the hurtful and insulting name calling directed at Lydia, which all of the witnesses said they were shocked by.

Reviewing the CCTV footage our representative pointed out that Lydia walked casually to the stairs, and her colleague had pursued her and appeared to be clearly agitated.

In her statement the colleague claimed she was in floods of tears, inconsolable and ran straight to her office after being assaulted and threatened by Lydia. Our representative pointed out that this statement was contradicted by CCTV footage, which showed her stopping and appearing to type on her phone before calmly walking off.

Our representative referred to evidence that showed it was the colleague who had displayed aggressive behaviour – name calling and pursuing Lydia – and been proven to be untruthful. He maintained that given this, and the fact there were no witnesses to what happened on the stairs it was reasonable to give Lydia the benefit of the doubt.

Lydia was cleared of any wrongdoing and given words of advice about her future conduct in the office.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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