Case Studies

Case Studies

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Letting personal feelings get in the way of a fair disciplinary process

Published 23 June 2021

Family fallouts can be very bitter, add work to the mix and things can get even nastier. 

Linda worked for a company owned by her brother-in-law and got caught up in the mess when his marriage to her sister broke down. 

Communications manager Linda was invited to a disciplinary hearing  to face allegations that centred on an alleged conversation she had with a client and a Facebook post she made. 

She categorically denied any wrongdoing, but was warned if the allegations were found proven she would be dismissed. 

Prior to the hearing Linda, who had worked for her employer for six years, contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help with her case. 

At the disciplinary hearing she was accompanied by our representative. He presented a comprehensive and robust response to the allegations. 

The hearing was told the disciplinary action being taken was vindictive, highly dubious and instigated by the owner. 

Linda’s former brother-in-law was originally due to chair her disciplinary hearing. Our representative objected and an independent HR advisor was appointed instead. 

In dealing with the first allegation, which referred to a negative conversation Linda had with a client, our representative focused on the evidence – or rather lack of it 

The allegation was based solely on notes of a conversation the owner said he had with the client, in which it was claimed Linda bad mouthed staff and the way the business was being run. 
 

Linda denied making the alleged comments. It was pointed out by our representative that there was in fact no actual evidence from the client to support the allegation. 

The fact the disciplinary investigation had been personally conducted by the owner of the business, and he was the only witness was highlighted to show a conflict of interests in his involvement, an abuse of power and unfairness of the process. 

The second allegation focused on a private Facebook post that was seen by less than 10 people. 

A screenshot of the post was presented by the company in support of the allegation. Linda’s actions were said to have breached the company social media policy. 

In the message, Linda made general comments about being mistreated, bullied and being targeted with malicious intent by someone once thought to be a good person. 

At the time Linda had been suspended from work and the disciplinary investigation was ongoing. 

Linda made no specific reference to her work or her employer. 

Our representative questioned how a screenshot of the post had been obtained.  

This was significant as it was not explained in the evidence. One member of the private group was Linda’s sister. She had provided a statement in support of Linda’s case, which said her ex-husband had the password to her Facebook account. 

So, how the evidence was accessed and obtained was raised as a significant concern. It was also pointed out that the message did not mention work or make reference to it in any way. 

It was argued that the disciplinary process was being pursued maliciously and being used by the owner to unfairly remove Linda from the business because of his acrimonious relationship with her sister. 

Our representative told the hearing that ordinarily Linda would have raised a grievance about the treatment she was being subjected to, but as she did not want to delay the process she opted not to do so. 

It was accepted that the working relationship with her former brother-in-law had irrevocably broken down.  

Our representative  explained that Linda’s desired outcome to the case was to be able to reach a settlement agreement that would allow her to draw a line under the matter and move on. 

The hearing chair said she would take that back to the business. The owner initially said no to the proposal. The HR advisor said she would, therefore, write her disciplinary report and recommendations to the business. 

The following week she contacted our representative to say that the company had read her report and was willing to consider a settlement. 

After a period of discussion and negotiation a settlement that Linda was delighted with, was eventually reached. 

 

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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. 

A reputation built on success

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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