Setting the record straight after an unfair disciplinary outcome
Published 11 March 2020
Getting sacked from your job for doing something you were unaware of and clearly did not mean can be a shock.
Charlie was dismissed for unlawfully accessing patient medical records at the private hospital where he had worked for four years.
It followed a comprehensive investigation by his employers after a patient complained about another member of staff referring to her treatment when they met unexpectedly in a social setting.
Charlie’s colleague was later dismissed. It is understood that she subsequently lodged an unsuccessful claim for unfair dismissal.
That case had serious repercussions for Charlie. It produced four examples where he was said to have accessed patient records within a two-week period and without good cause.
Charlie was suspended from work. The investigation provided extensive evidence of his computer activity and his swipe card record for times when he had entered and left the building.
Crucial evidence included dates and times when he had logged in and out of the computer system, details of folders and files he had accessed and for how long.
Charlie said he had not shared his login details with anyone else. He said he would often not logout when he left his desk or work and others used his PC at times.
He denied any deliberate wrongdoing but he was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing. The allegation was inappropriate and unlawful access of patient medical records to view confidential patient information.
Charlie reviewed the extensive evidence provided. On one of the dates he was able to prove he was at a hospital appointment at the time he was said to have accessed one set of records.
He exercised his statutory right to be accompanied at the disciplinary hearing. His companion was a colleague and supported Charlie in his claim that around the time of the allegations there were problems and confusion with a new computer system.
Charlie maintained he did not act deliberately, had no connection or unhealthy interest in the patients and could not explain why he accessed the records.
He challenged the accuracy and reliability of the evidence based on the one incident when he was clearly not in work despite the swipe card evidence showing him swiping in on the day and then out two days later.
The decision was taken to uphold the allegation and Charlie was dismissed. He appealed and contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
At the appeal hearing our representative presented statements Charlie had obtained from former colleagues to support his case.
One witness, his companion at the disciplinary hearing, and a receptionist recalled teething problems and confusion accessing information at the time of the allegations due to the introduction of a new computer system.
The appeal hearing was told that Charlie received no training on how to use the new system. His training record was requested prior to the hearing and presented to support this.
The computer logs showed the records had been accessed for no more than five seconds. Our representative told the hearing that would clearly not give Charlie adequate time to fully review the records and gather confidential information if that was truly his aim.
To demonstrate this our representative presented the chair with a piece of paper containing typed information he had prepared and asked him to read what he could in five seconds to see what information he could get from it. The chair refused to do so.
The hearing was told that Charlie had no reason or underhand motive to deliberately access the records in question. Concerns about the investigation were highlighted and his work record and good character discussed.
Charlie’s desired outcome was to clear his name and secure a positive reference so that he could get a new job. Our representative initiated a conversation about a settlement agreement.
Following later negotiation and discussion a settlement was agreed. The hospital agreed to remove the dismissal from Charlie’s record, provide a reference and it also paid him a four-figure tax free lump sum.
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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. 0333 772 0611