Case Studies

Case Studies

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Unfair disciplinary process after an accident waiting to happen

Published 14 October 2020

Having been injured in an accident at work, branded a liar and then sacked, things really could not get much worse for Miriam.

Food factory worker Miriam slipped on a milk spillage and broke her ankle. She was taken to hospital by ambulance.  

She was later accused of lying about the accident and dismissed after a disciplinary hearing.

The allegation was that she deliberately misled her manager about the accident, which resulted in a breach of trust and confidence.

Miriam categorically denied the allegation, but she was fired from the job she had for eight years.

Miriam was fortunate enough to have found a new job before she contacted Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

Miriam was adamant that she wanted to clear her name and did not want to be reinstated.

Miriam believed the disciplinary process was unfair, a view wholly supported by our representative after he reviewed the evidence and discussed it with her.

In order to initiate the disciplinary appeal process and challenge the decision, Miriam had to submit an appeal.

Our representative wrote an appeal letter and submitted it to Miriam’s former employer on her behalf.  

The grounds for appeal were that no reasonable employer would have reached the decision to dismiss on the evidence presented and that the disciplinary process was unfair.

There was overwhelming evidence to support the appeal. Significant evidence included that Miriam could be considered a whistle-blower, there was a lack of credible evidence to support the allegation and the disciplinary process breached the ACAS Code of Practice.

At the appeal hearing our representative argued that the decision to dismiss Miriam was grossly unfair and unduly harsh.

He referred to witness evidence from three colleagues that largely supported Miriam’s description of the accident.

Miriam was alleged to have been untruthful because she mistakenly named one witness who she thought saw the accident, and he said he did not see it.

That witness had arrived on the scene afterwards and stayed with Miriam until the ambulance arrived.

It was explained that witness was a presence that Miriam clearly remembered comforting and staying with her and she genuinely believed he had witnessed what had happened. It was pointed out it was a legitimate mistake in the circumstances and not a deliberate lie.

The appeal hearing was told the overwhelming majority of the evidence actually supported Miriam’s case. It was said that on the balance of probabilities most reasonable employers would accept that Miriam’s account was corroborated.

Evidence was also presented to the appeal hearing, in the form of Miriam reporting concerns about spillages and providing managers with photos. This was used to assert that she was a whistle-blower.

The appeal hearing heard that she repeatedly reported matters that posed a danger to the health and safety of others. She felt threatened by her manager’s responses and kept diary-like details of incidents, shown to the appeal hearing chair.

Those concerns were ignored and Miriam’s dismissal was said to amount to unfavourable treatment for being a whistle-blower.

Our representative also explained breaches of the ACAS Code. This included denying Miriam a representative at the disciplinary hearing, the same manager doing the investigation and then the disciplinary hearing as well as being the manager who accused Miriam of lying to him. 

Substantial evidence was presented to the appeal hearing to support Miriam’s case. 

It included our representative dissecting and providing a comprehensive response to the stated justification in the disciplinary outcome letter that highlighted why the outcome was unfair and flawed.

The disciplinary appeal hearing chair queried Miriam’s desired outcome. Miriam said it was to clear her name and if she was not able to do so, she had every intention of pursuing a case for unfair dismissal.

The hearing was later adjourned and Miriam and our representative asked to wait.

When the hearing reconvened the company initiated a discussion about a settlement agreement, which would say that Miriam left the company rather than she was dismissed.

Later discussions and negotiations regarding the full terms of an agreement took place after the hearing. 

A settlement was eventually reached, which included a financial payment that took into account that Miriam would have a personal injury claim against the company.

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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

 

A reputation built on success

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. 

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