Case Studies

Case Studies

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Picking apart a disciplinary case to ensure justice prevails

Published 17 February 2021
Factory supervisor Maria insisted she was firm but fair, while a colleague claimed she was a bully - it was a difference in opinion that left her fighting to save her job.

Maria had been in charge of a food production department for a decade when a member of staff made bullying allegations against her. The accuser claimed his allegations were supported by colleagues.

He claimed Maria was aggressive and pushed him during a disagreement and goaded him to retaliate.

Maria was invited to a disciplinary hearing. She faced an allegation of actual or threatened violence and aggressive behaviour..

The employer said the allegation came from a grievance raised by the aggrieved employee.

Maria was warned that dismissal was a potential outcome of her disciplinary hearing. Along with the invite to the hearing, she was sent two witness statements said to support the allegation.

Distraught Maria was adamant the allegation was untrue. She accepted the pair had exchanged words, but was clear it was nothing untoward or out of the ordinary for the workplace.

Maria said the individual making the complaint was in fact the aggressor when he confronted her for not giving him overtime. She contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

Our representative was able to skilfully pick apart the case against Maria, undermine the dubious witness evidence and get the allegations dismissed.

Maria explained that the witness statements were from workers who are all members of the complaint’s family. She also said that they were a problematic group that had not been dealt with by management.

Prior to the disciplinary hearing our representative requested information from the employer that would help Maria’s case. The requested information included a copy the grievance submitted by the employee and the outcome of the investigation into it.

The company confirmed a written grievance had not been submitted and the matter had not been investigated separately.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative referred to the company’s grievance policy, which required formal complaints to be put in writing. The fact this had not been done was used to maintain that Maria was being treated unfairly.

Our representatives are experts at highlighting flaws, inconsistences and contradictions in evidence. This proved significant in Maria’s case.

It was pointed out to the disciplinary hearing chair that the witness statements regarding the alleged push were based on hearsay. The two witnesses provided details of the part of the disagreement they witnessed.

The descriptions of what was apparently witnessed was compared to the complaint’s statement. This was used to highlight that based on what was said by the witnesses they actually arrived at the incident after the alleged push.

The push was said to have happened at the start of the incident. Both witnesses only went to see what was happening after hearing raised voices, so therefore could not have witnessed the push if it happened as alleged.

Our representative also highlighted inconsistencies and contradictions about what the witnesses claimed they heard and saw. This was used to undermine the reliability and credibility of the witnesses and cast doubt on their integrity.

The information requested by our representative prior to the hearing included copies of emails Maria had sent to management  requesting help to deal with the group who had been troublesome to her and colleagues. The correspondence showed that help was promised, but never provided.

The hearing was also told of Maria’s exemplary disciplinary record during a decade of service and given copies of her performance reviews, included in the information requested prior to the hearing, which praised her management style.

Maria was later cleared of the allegation. The disciplinary hearing chair suggested mediation with the employee who had made the complaint. Maria was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed to it in order to address the issues in the working relationship.

 

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