The trouble when what is caught on camera is not what it seems
Published 09 October 2019
There can be nothing worse and getting caught up in somebody else’s wrongdoing and for it to leave you fighting to save your job.
When the Claire contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre she was in desperate need of help. Her employer had alleged she was a racist.
It followed an incident a number of months earlier when a non-British colleague was mocked for her accent by another employee.
A video of the incident was provided to management at the factory where Claire had worked for nearly three years.
The footage did not feature Claire. She was said to be one of the people who could be heard, but not seen, laughing in the background.
Claire along with a number of other colleagues was interviewed at the time. This was after the employee who was targeted raised a formal grievance alleging race discrimination. Claire denied any wrongdoing.
The alleged victim later went off work on long-term sick. The investigation went quiet and nothing else was said about the incident.
It resurfaced many months later when another video came to the attention of factory bosses.
This time it was a video of Claire’s cousin making offensive comments about a religion. The footage was filmed in Claire’s garden at a busy family event. A single female voice could be heard, shouting encouragement to her cousin as he spoke to the camera.
Factory bosses were tipped off about the video and sent a copy of it. Claire was called into her manager’s office and he alleged that it was her voice that could be heard in the background of the footage.
Claire was suspended from work. She was distraught, protested her innocence, said she was disgusted by her cousin’s behaviour and had no knowledge of it beforehand.
The manager said that coupled with the workplace incident months earlier; there was good evidence to indicate that Claire was racist.
Distressed Claire was later invited to attend a disciplinary hearing. The notification to attend the hearing included an allegation of racist behaviour on two occasions.
The evidence provided to support the allegations included an anonymous witness statement, which claimed Claire was in the background of both incidents.
Claire was horrified and she informed our representative that she was heartbroken. She said she could not work for a company that thought she was capable of such behaviour. She believed that it was a case of constructive dismissal, but was determined to fight it all of the way.
She told our representative that for the work incident she was not present and had been told about it after returning from a cigarette break. Prior to the hearing our representative requested a print out of Claire’s swipe card record showing times she entered and exited the factory on the date in question.
From that record and the date and time stamp on the phone footage it was highlighted that Claire could not have been present at the incident.
Other unclear mobile phone footage taken from the family event, showed a female in the background encouraging Claire’s cousin. Although the identity of the woman was unclear, the colour of the top she was wearing was. Pictures taken at the event before and after the incident showed Claire wearing a different colour top.
At the hearing our representative presented this evidence to support Claire’s categorical denial of the allegations. He also explained that given how she had been treated and made to feel she had lost all trust and confidence in the company.
Our representative initiated a conversation about a potential settlement agreement. The disciplinary hearing chair sought advice on this and a discussion and negotiations later took place.
Claire was eventually cleared of the allegations and later agreed a settlement. She was then able to leave with a clean disciplinary record, a guarantee of a reference, a four-figure tax free payment, her notice period and payment for outstanding holidays.
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