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Help with a disciplinary appeal

Published 27 November 2019

Fixing the disciplinary process when the wheels come off.

Stanley had worked at the same garage for over 30 years when his dream of retiring when he wanted came under serious threat.

The diabetic mechanic suffered a hypo at work. It is caused when your blood glucose level (also called blood sugar) is too low.

Common symptoms of a hypo include, trembling and feeling shaky, sweating, being anxious or irritable, going pale and palpitations and a fast pulse.

Stanley was helped by a first aid trained colleague. He was given a sugary energy drink, which got his blood sugar level back up, and then taken home.

The incident later led to it being alleged that Stanley was intoxicated on duty. The allegation was upheld, and he was issued with a final written warning.

The sanction was eventually overturned after Stanley went through the disciplinary appeals process.

It was alleged by an employee that when Stanley was taken ill he was disorientated and drunk and that it was not the first time he had turned up in such a state.

Another colleague told management of an incident in which a wheel was not properly secured on a vehicle and that on the day there was also a heavy smell of booze on Stanley.

When Stanley returned to work his manager quizzed him about his drinking and questioned if he was drunk or hungover, which he denied.

He was suspended from work after the manager carried out what he said were sobriety tests, usually performed by US traffic cops to determine if a driver is impaired. It was claimed that Stanley had failed the tests.

He insisted he was not and had never been intoxicated at work. The manager informed him evidence said otherwise.

At a subsequent disciplinary hearing, the evidence against Stanley was a witness statement from a colleague about the day he was taken ill, another one about the loose wheel incident and one from the manager about failing the sobriety tests.

The allegation of being unfit for work through intoxication was considered proven. Stanley was issued with a final written warning and informed he was extremely lucky not to have been dismissed.

Stanley was hugely aggrieved by the outcome. He contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

The first aider who tended to Stanley was not spoken to as part of the original investigation. Prior to the disciplinary appeal hearing our representative requested that a statement be taken from him.

He also requested details of the vehicle with the loose wheel, date and time of the incident, evidence of any complaint and action taken at the time. No information was provided in response.

Our representative also requested the company policy on conducting sobriety tests and details of the training provided to enable managers to carry them out. There was no such policy or training provided.

The first aider gave a witness statement in which he said he did not notice the smell of alcohol on Stanley that day,

It was also highlighted to the disciplinary appeal hearing chair that there was no evidence of Stanley being responsible for a loose wheel on any vehicle or indeed any record or complaint relating to such an incident.

The hearing was told that there was no policy or procedure for carrying out sobriety tests, or training provided for managers to do so. It was argued that any such test result was unreliable and dubious evidence.

These points were used to challenge and undermine the evidence and highlight the unfairness of the process.

Mitigation in the form of Stanley’s medical condition, long service, exemplary disciplinary record was also presented to support his appeal.

Given the extremely unfair way in which Stanley was treated and the role of his health in this case a formal grievance would normally have been raised. However, Stanley was adamant he did not wish to do so and our representative acted on his instruction.

Stanley’s desired appeal outcome was to have the warning overturned. The appeal was successful and the warning was eventually overturned.

Stanley retired about 18 months later at a time of his choosing. It allowed him to pursue a long-held dream to travel around the world in his own time.

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