When disciplinary action really does leave a nasty taste in your mouth
Published 24 July 2019
When disciplinary action really does leave a nasty taste in your mouth.
There can be few things worse for an employee than being dismissed after innocently getting caught up in what can be considered a trivial incident.
Richard had worked for a confectionery company for four years when he contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre in desperate need of help.
There are some disciplinary cases that clearly justify disciplinary action being taken, while others leave you wondering why common sense did not prevail. Richard’s case fell into the latter category.
His mistake was to eat a sweet that was offered to him by a good friend and colleague. This happened after the workmate picked up Richard, who was waiting at a bus stop, and gave him a lift home in his car.
Unbeknown to Richard his male colleague had taken the sweets after they had fallen to the floor, and should have been thrown away. He did not tell Richard this when he offered him one.
Richard continued working as normal, but noticed that over the following week his workmate was not in work. During a break another colleague mentioned that Richard’s friend had been invited to a disciplinary hearing and sacked for stealing.
Richard was shocked and he contacted his pal after work. His friend confirmed that he had been dismissed. He said he told the manager at the hearing that he only took a few sweets destined for the bin, and that Richard could confirm it.
Richard commiserated with his friend and wished him well. His ex-colleague said he was going to go through the disciplinary appeals process and challenge his dismissal.
He asked Richard if he could do a witness statement for him, and he said he would.
Richard wrote the statement and explained that he only saw his friend with three sweets in the car and he was given one, which he ate.
The appeal by Richard’s friend against his dismissal was unsuccessful. Richard was called into his manager’s office the day after his ex-colleague got his appeal outcome.
Richard was told that in the statement he wrote he had admitted theft of stock. He was suspended from work and told he would be invited to a disciplinary hearing.
Richard protested his innocence and said he had no idea how his colleague acquired the company produce he gave him. He explained that he was simply offered something, took it, and ate it.
When Richard was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing it was to face an allegation of theft. The evidence accompanying the notification was Richard’s apparent ‘confession’. There was also a statement from his former workmate that said he shared what he had taken with Richard.
Richard exercised his right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing and took a work colleague with him. He was questioned at the hearing about why he did not question where his colleague had got the sweets from. He was also told that he must have known the items had been stolen.
Richard thought the claim was ridiculous and continued to protest his innocence. This was not accepted, and he was dismissed for theft.
Richard felt the decision amounted to an unfair dismissal and he submitted an appeal and contacted us for help.
At the appeal hearing our representative’s arguments included that the decision to dismiss was grossly unfair and unduly harsh.
He explained the situation in which Richard was picked up by his friend and offered a sweet. He maintained that Richard had no reasonable way of knowing the sweets had been taken without permission, or reason to question it.
It was asserted that Richard’s conduct was not dishonest and his actions were not deliberate. The hearing was told it could have happened to anyone and the circumstances in which the incident occurred should lead any fair employer to conclude that dismissal was not within a range of reasonable responses.
Richard’s desired appeal outcome was to be reinstated. His appeal was successful and he got his desired outcome.
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