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Targeting an employee for disciplinary action after they dare to raise a grievance

Published 22 September 2022

You should be able to make a genuine complaint to your employer without fear of repercussions, but as Abhay discovered this is not always the case.

After continually being subjected to offensive and insulting comments about his Indian heritage, the interior architect found the courage to complain to his bosses.

His complaint was treated dismissively. And to add insult to injury, he then faced disciplinary action - for making the complaint.

An allegation of bullying was levelled against a shocked Abhay. It was because he was alleged to have made ‘malicious allegations against colleagues.’

A relieved Abhay would later be cleared of the allegation.

But the experience damaged him mentally and emotionally. It left him feeling bitter, and he lost all trust and confidence in his employer.

He then chose to leave the job on his own terms, but he had to go through a formal process before he could do so.

Our representative supported Abhay at the disciplinary hearing he was invited to attend.

Abhay, who had worked for his employer for three years, was warned dismissal was a potential outcome to the meeting.

Our representative made clear his displeasure about the grossly unfair manner in which Abhay was being treated.

In presenting Abhay’ response to the allegation at the disciplinary hearing, he argued that his treatment amounted to victimisation after he had complained of discrimination because of his race.

Victimisation occurs when you are treated unfavourably because you have made a complaint about any type of discrimination covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Our representative focused on the employer’s wholly unreasonable response to Abhay’s complaint.

He told the hearing insulting comments about a picture of Abhay’s sister wearing traditional Indian clothing, which was posted online, was the final straw.

It resulted in Abhay raising a grievance. Our representative presented a copy of the comprehensive grievance letter to the disciplinary hearing chair.

The 10-page document listed numerous hurtful and insulting comments Abhay said had been made to him in the six months since the first one.

Our representative highlighted that the letter included details of employees both past and present who had been named as witnesses to incidents.

He explained that given the content of the grievance letter there was a reasonable expectation the employer would have conducted an investigation in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice.

Our representative told the disciplinary hearing, the response to the grievance was unbelievable and truly shocking.

Abhay was never invited to a grievance hearing. Instead he received a one-page letter, which effectively said the grievance had been investigated, no evidence was found to substantiate the allegations, and in fact evidence had been found to support that Abhay’s allegations were malicious.

As our representative pointed out, no such evidence was ever provided.

Abhay first made contact with our Employee Support Centre and representative after being sent an invite to a disciplinary hearing. It was sent with a copy of the dignity at work policy, the only evidence he was sent, which listed making malicious allegations as an act of bullying.

The disciplinary hearing chair was reminded by our representative that race discrimination, which Abhay had complained about, was unlawful in accordance with the Equality Act.

He strongly asserted the failure to follow ACAS guidance, and also company policy, and hold a grievance hearing, along with the lack of any evident grievance investigation coupled with the unfair disciplinary action being taken, amounted to victimisation of Abhay.

Our representative completely destroyed the disciplinary case against Abhay.

Abhay had said beforehand he wished to bring the matter to an end, draw a line under it and move on.

He was keen to agree a settlement agreement and adamant he would pursue the matter to an employment tribunal if one could not be reached.

Talks about a settlement began at the end of the disciplinary hearing and continued into the following week.

An agreement was eventually reached, and part of it included Abhay receiving a tax free five-figure sum.

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