Praying for a miracle when dismissal seems inevitable
Published 25 October 2023
When security officer Andy was discovered asleep in a chair, wrapped in a blanket, barefooted and with ‘foreign type music playing on his phone,’ his fate appeared sealed.
He was caught by his boss sleeping on duty at the business premises he should have been observing.
The offence was specifically listed as an act of gross misconduct in the company disciplinary policy.
Andy, who had worked for his employer for just over 18 months, was suspended from work.
He later attended a fact-finding meeting as part of the disciplinary investigation process. Andy apologised, but felt he was prevented from explaining what happened.
The evidence to support the allegation, was a statement from the manager who discovered Andy asleep during a spot-check.
Our representative was, obviously, keen to hear any explanation Andy had about what happened.
That explanation provided what was considered significant mitigation in the case, which could mean dismissal may not necessarily be a reasonable response. Andy was willing to accept a final written warning.
Andy explained to our representative he was a Muslim convert, and the incident occurred during Ramadan, and after he had been praying, which is why he was barefooted.
He said that after praying, he had sat back in the chair, wrapped himself in a blanket because it was cold, and was listening to prayers on his phone when he inadvertently fell asleep.
Our representative was keen to understand what facilities or arrangements were available to allow Andy to be able to observe his religion at work. No facilities were available, and no arrangements were in place.
In addition to this, our representative sought to establish any other factors which may have played a part in what happened.
Outside of work Andy’s life was in chaos, and he admitted for the first time he was completely overwhelmed and struggling to cope.
At the disciplinary hearing, our representative started his presentation by expressing remorse on behalf of Andy and conveying his sincere apologies for what occurred.
Our representative highlighted the fact there were no facilities or arrangements available to allow Andy to observe his religion.
He maintained as the allegation was directly related to Andy praying and he had no support to be able to do so at the required time, if he was punished too severely or unfairly, it could amount to discrimination because of his religion. Andy was protected from discrimination from his first day of employment.
The hearing was also told Andy’s personal life was in turmoil and causing him mental and emotional distress, which had left him exhausted.
This included going through a divorce, moving out of the family home shared with his wife and children, with the youngest 10 months, and moving in with his elderly mother. Andy turned to religion afterwards to help him cope.
Evidence to show Andy was in considerable debt and being pursued legally for money owed, was shown to the disciplinary hearing chair. It was explained he had previously not faced up to and dealt with the issues as he should have.
Prior to the disciplinary hearing, Andy had finally sought help to deal with his financial problems. This was explained at the hearing and used to demonstrate he was taking positive steps to address the matter.
Andy had also opened up for the first time about the mental and emotional crisis he had been suffering with in silence. As our representative explained he was typical of many men in their 50s who remain embarrassed to talk openly about mental health, but he was finally getting appropriate help.
Andy’s religion, remorse and heartfelt apology, fact he was taking positive steps to help address his finances and to get help with his mental and emotional wellbeing were asserted as mitigation, and as part of a quest for some leniency.
The matters were important aspects of a comprehensive response to the allegation, which our representative said should mean Andy is not dismissed.
Andy was issued with a final written warning.