Unfounded disciplinary allegations against an assertive manager
Published 07 June 2023
As a manager Celia insisted she was firm but fair, so you can imagine her relief when she was eventually cleared of bullying and intimidating her team members.
The chair of a disciplinary hearing dismissed allegations that the science and technology project manager had verbally abused and threatened staff.
Celia had only been in the role for 24 months when she faced the threat of dismissal.
She was convinced it was her drive, ambition and determination to bring about change to an established team, that ruffled feathers and led to the unwarranted allegations.
Worried Celia contacted our Employee Support Centre when first informed of the accusations made against her.
Celia was later invited to a disciplinary hearing to face allegations that amounted to bullying and intimidation of colleagues and of a loss of trust and confidence in her as a manager.
The main evidence against her consisted of five anonymous one-page witness statements, which were included with various policies and emails and documents relating to relevant projects.
Our representative was concerned by the witness statements, not because of the content them, but rather the lack of it.
Each statement effectively just said that Celia was nasty, cruel, shouted at and bullied staff.
No specific details of incidents, dates of when they took place and what exactly she apparently said or did was included in any of the statements.
Our representative emailed the employer prior to the disciplinary hearing to raise concerns about the evidence and process.
Those concerns included the fact the evidence provided did not contain sufficient information, in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice, to enable Celia to fully prepare to answer the serious allegations she faced.
He also maintained the use of and reliance on anonymous witness statements was unfair. It was asserted it undermined her right to a fair disciplinary hearing and the reliability of the evidence.
The employer was adamant the process was fair and sufficient information had been provided.
This was the stance the company maintained in the exchange of subsequent correspondence with our representative.
Our representative discussed with Celia the idea of raising a grievance given the process was unfair and selective evidence had been provided to the disciplinary hearing chair.
The fact submitting a grievance could cause the disciplinary process to be delayed while it was dealt with, did not appeal to Celia.
She was keen to proceed with the disciplinary process given the detrimental impact it was having on all aspects of her life.
At the disciplinary hearing, our representative argued the process was extremely unfair given insufficient information had been provided in relation to the main allegation, and that in accordance with employment law guidance the use of anonymous witness evidence could not be justified in Celia’s case.
He pointed out that as dismissal was a potential outcome, such a decision can be found to be automatically unfair if the process conducted is unfair, as in Celia’s case.
Our representative told the hearing Celia categorically denied any allegations of wrongdoing, which based on the evidence provided was all she could possibly say.
Prior to the hearing our representative had worked with Celia to advise her to gather evidence, which showed she was a good manager and had received nothing but positive feedback for her work. This evidence was presented to the hearing chair.
Addressing the allegation of a loss of trust and confidence in Celia as a manager, our representative said that in accordance with employment law it must be for ‘some other substantial reason.’
He presented a compelling argument that the allegation of bullying was unfounded and so there was no legitimate reason that could reasonably justify a loss of trust and confidence in Celia as a manager.
Our representative told the hearing Celia was keen to return to work, recognised there were issues within the team, and she was eager to work with the company to address all matters arising from the case.
Celia was later cleared of the allegations and took part in successful workplace mediation upon her return to work.