The trouble when an employer gets a misleading picture of a disciplinary case
Published 23 January 2020
Social media can be great for staying in touch and providing updates but it can also be a source of big trouble for employees.
Noreen certainly was not the first, and she will not be the last to face the threat of dismissal because of what is posted on Facebook.
There can be few things worse for an employee than being unfairly accused of fraud and dishonesty.
After Noreen contacted the Castle Associates Employee Centre she was eventually able to completely clear her name after such an allegation was made against her.
Noreen, who worked in the transport industry, missed a dream family holiday to the West Indies when her request for annual leave was refused.
Other members of the family went on the holiday. Just days before they departed Noreen slipped on her way to the shops and suffered a badly sprained ankle and twisted knee. She was signed off work.
Members of the family who went on the sunshine break posted loads of pictures and typical holiday snaps, which included images by the pool, on the beach and at tourist destinations.
Dejected Noreen sat at home recovering. When she was fit enough to go back to work she got a very cold reception upon her return.
At what should have been a return to work interview, her manager produced four snaps that one of Noreen’s daughters had posted on Facebook.
The same woman, wearing a sun hat with her face unclear was in the background of the images. The manager said he believed it was Noreen and she had feigned illness and gone on the holiday despite being refused leave.
Noreen admitted the woman did look like her, but she laughed it off and told her manager it was ridiculous. He persisted that it was her and said other people had looked at the image and like him they are confident it is her.
When Noreen realised it was not a joke, her laughter turned to anger. She insisted it was not her in the pictures and offered to ring her daughter there and then to clear it up.
She was told not to bother because her daughter would only lie to cover it up. Noreen was furious. The pair argued and there were raised voices.
The manager left the room and returned after a while with another member of management. He informed Noreen that she was suspended from work for being dishonest about her absence and for aggressive behaviour towards him.
A week later Noreen, as part of a disciplinary investigation, was invited to an investigation meeting, which is intended to establish the facts of a case.
Noreen was able to explain and provide evidence to demonstrate that it was not her in the holiday snaps.
Noreen was confident that would be the end of the matter – but she was wrong. She received an invite to attend a disciplinary hearing.
The notification letter included just one allegation, which was a shock. While the allegation of dishonesty had been dropped, it contained an allegation of aggressive behaviour towards management.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative maintained the Noreen was justified in being upset given a serious, hurtful and false allegation was made against her.
He told the hearing that Noreen’s understandable distress was misinterpreted as aggression and that she was adamant she did not act in the manner alleged.
Our representative argued that as there were no independent witnesses it was effectively Noreen’s word against that of the manager. He said as there was no corroboration for either version of events, Noreen should be given the benefit of any doubt.
It was explained that Noreen was willing to work with her manager to address any misunderstanding. It was pointed out that she had previously raised a formal grievance against him and the working relationship may be strained.
Our representative used this to propose that dismissing the allegation and resolving the matter informally and possibly with mediation would be the best way forward.
The disciplinary hearing chair eventually agreed and the allegation against Noreen was dismissed.
“A reputation built on success”
For free 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