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Secret recording at work for disciplinary

Published 21 November 2018

There are times when an employee may lose trust in their manager and perhaps do something they should not.
It’s fair to say that Eric in his six years working as an engineer had a fractious relationship with his previous, and current manager.
Eric, who is mixed race and was born in South Africa, was part of a group of employees that submitted a collective formal grievance against a previous manager, which alleged that he was a racist and a bully.

The manager later left the company. The rumour was that ‘it was a cover up and he was paid off’. Eric was the last remaining employee with the company from that group that submitted the grievance.

He had a number of clashes with his current manager about cigarette and lunch breaks and the time it was taking for him to complete his work.

The pair had a row when the manger pulled up Eric about the condition of the interior of his van. During the incident Eric said that the workers had had enough of the manager, but he was the only one brave enough to say it. Eric said his manager responded by saying ‘who do you think you are Nelson Mandela?’
Eric was offended, complained to HR, the advisor later said she investigated but there were no witnesses. She said she had a word with the manager about his conduct.

The HR advisor said if Eric had any future concerns or evidence to support any inappropriate behaviour he should let her know.
Eric said the day after the manager called him a snake and said ‘snitches get stitches.’ He went to the HR advisor who said as there were no witnesses there was nothing she could do.
A couple of weeks later the manager called Eric to his office to berate him again about the condition of his van. Eric secretly recorded the conversation on his phone.
The recording captured the manager saying that Eric and an Asian colleague may keep messy vehicles where they come from but in England it’s not acceptable. He also directed abusive language at Eric and called him ‘Nelson’.

Eric went straight to HR with recording and played it. He was told to wait in the office while it was looked into.
Eric was then informed that he was suspended from work for breaching company policy that prohibits the recording of meetings and for an invasion of his manager’s privacy.
The HR advisor told Eric he would have to delete the recording, but he did not do so. She said they would have to carry out a disciplinary investigation and Eric would be invited to an investigation meeting.
Eric attended an investigation meeting, admitted what he did and insisted that as it exposed the manager behaving in an inappropriate way with clearly racist undertones he was justified in his actions.
The company said it would deal with the manager separately. Eric said he was told his actions were serious and he should think about resigning before the disciplinary hearing.

The hearing was scheduled, postponed and rearranged a number of times at Eric’s request. At the fourth time of asking the company said it would go ahead in Eric’s absence if he did not attend.

Eric contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre just two days before the meeting was due to take place. Our representative took on the case and attended the disciplinary hearing with Eric.

Prior to the hearing Eric made it clear he wanted to leave the company. At the start of the disciplinary hearing our representative initiated a without prejudice conversation. There followed a conversation about the merits of the case.

The initial settlement agreement proposed by our representative on behalf of Eric was rejected, and a counter offer was made by the company. There followed some further negotiation after which it was agreed Eric could leave and he would be paid a tax free lump sum, paid his notice period and for his outstanding holidays and be given a reference if one was requested.

The following week Eric signed the agreement. He got a new job a short time later.

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