Moving the disciplinary goalposts and scoring an own goal
Published 07 February 2018
At Castle Associates our representatives are sticklers for detail and it really can make all of the difference when an employee is facing dismissal.
It is not uncommon for an employer to level allegations against an employee and then attempt to change them when it becomes apparent that the original allegations are not substantiated.
When Warwickshire-based development officer Lizzie was accused of driving while disqualified, she knew it was wrong.
However, disciplinary matters are not always as straightforward and as simple as they should be. Fortunately this is something our representatives are experts at dealing with.
When Lizzie was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing she was accused of failing to inform her employer that she had been banned from driving, and warned that if the allegation was upheld she may be dismissed.
Lizzie was understandably worried and she contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help.
During the investigation stage of the disciplinary process the company did not hold an investigation meeting with Lizzie in order to establish the facts.
When Lizzie was summoned to her manager’s office and suspended from work she did protest her innocence, and insist that she had not been disqualified from driving.
The apparent driving ban only came to light when the company’s vehicle insurers checked Lizzie’s details. The insurers informed the company that Lizzie’s licence had been ‘suspended’ two months earlier.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative presented evidence to demonstrate that there was crucial difference in a person being disqualified from driving – a ban imposed by a court - and a driving licence being suspended.
He also presented evidence, obtained by Lizzie from Northumbria police, that showed she had been stopped by traffic officers while working in that area three weeks earlier, her details checked and she was allowed to drive off.
There was also evidence that showed some months earlier Lizzie had been fined for speeding in West Yorkshire, but intended to challenge the penalty.
However, after discussing the case with her uncle, a retired police officer, she accepted the three points and fine and did not appear in court as planned.
At court a speeding driver is required to hand over their driving licence for it to be endorsed. As Lizzie, who previously had a clean driving licence, did not appear in court she did not hand in her licence, and she was never notified she was required to do so.
As result Lizzie’s driving licence was temporarily suspended because it had not been sent off to be endorsed. For some unknown reason it was not flagged up when she was pulled over by police officers just a few weeks earlier.
Presented with this evidence the company accepted that Lizzie had not been disqualified from driving. However, it was not willing to let Lizzie off the hook that easily.
The disciplinary hearing chair then claimed Lizzie deliberately failed to notify the company that her licence had been suspended and he was now going to make a decision based on that. .
Our representative protested and argued the company was unfairly moving the goalposts. He pointed out that the original allegation was unfounded and if it is believed new facts have emerged then any new allegation should be investigated separately. This is covered in the ACAS Code .
The hearing was adjourned again. When it reconvened the chair informed Lizzie he would write to her to invite her to a new disciplinary hearing.
Our representative maintained this was unfair and to continue to pursue the matter would leave Lizzie justifiably feeling victimised especially as the evidence clearly showed that she was unaware her licence had been suspended. He made it clear that should the company take this course of action then Lizzie would submit a formal grievance.
After a lengthy adjournment and subsequent discussions, the company decided that it would take no further action.