When all that appears on camera is not what is claimed.
Published 26 September 2018
For an innocent employee having to defend themselves against CCTV footage being used to support serious allegations against them is a daunting prospect.
Incidents captured on camera are often used by employers in disciplinary investigations to help establish the facts of a case.
Brief CCTV footage was pivotal in the decision to take disciplinary action against Asha after an allegation from a female colleague.
The pair had a disagreement and blamed each other for a problem with a birthday party booking at the soft play children’s centre where they both worked.
Afterwards the colleague started to deliberately ignore Asha in work and unfriended her on Facebook.
A few weeks later Asha and the colleague had a disagreement about tasks while preparing to open the centre. It became a shouting match with both women trading insults and using foul and abusive language. They were stopped by colleagues.
Asha went outside to have a cigarette in the designated smoking area. Her colleague followed and they exchanged more words.
Later that afternoon the manager called Asha to her office. She said the colleague had alleged Asha had made death threats in the smoking area, which had left the other worker traumatised and unable to work.
The manager said she had reviewed the CCTV footage and spoken to another employee. Asha admitted having an argument with the colleague and denied making a threat, but she was suspended from work
The following week Asha was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing. She was provided with three witness statements, which covered the argument only. None of them referred to the alleged threat being made.
Asha contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help.
Our representative requested further CCTV footage from the employer, a copy of its CCTV use policy and company handbook. The policy confirmed the footage can be used in disciplinary matters, not all employers make this clear.
The company arranged for our representative and Asha to view the requested footage prior to the hearing. It showed the alleged victim laughing and joking with colleagues shortly after the incident.
Our representative also used section 12 of the ACAS Code of Practice to make a request for three of Asha’s colleagues to attend the hearing as witnesses. The employer agreed to this.
At the hearing our representative questioned the witness and they confirmed the argument started when Asha had rightly corrected her colleague. Two witnesses said the argument started when Asha responded to being insulted. Asha also asked the witnesses questions.
Our representative argued that while the CCTV footage showed a verbal exchange outside it did not confirm a threat was ever made. He told the hearing that there were no other witnesses there and it was therefore Asha’s word against that of her colleague, and in such circumstances she should be given the benefit of any doubt. He referred to employment case law to support this.
CCTV footage requested by our representative was also used to show the other worker was not as ‘traumatised’ as claimed in her statement, and therefore her honesty and credibility are questionable.
The colleague making the allegation also admitted in her statement that she deliberately ignores Asha at work. Our representative referred to the company handbook and its bullying and harassment policy in which it listed deliberately ignoring someone and making them feeling excluded and isolated as an act of bullying
He also told the hearing Asha regretted her conduct in arguing with her colleague, but as confirmed by witnesses she reacted to provocation.
Asha was later cleared of any wrongdoing. The company then arranged mediation with Asha and the colleague who had made the allegation.
Mediation appeared to work, up until the time the colleague was later dismissed for making false allegations against a parent of a child at the centre.
“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