Wed 3 July, 2019
A box full of trouble with the disciplinary process
No employee wants to feel like they have suffered an injustice and it’s not just an individual who has been unfairly dismissed who will feel that way.
Receiving any type of formal disciplinary sanction unfairly can be just as maddening.
Richard had worked for a distribution company for the best part of two decades and thought he had seen it all.
He had seen the business ownership change hands and faced the uncertainty and negative rumours that things will change for the worse, which sometimes come with a TUPE transfer.
He had seen a number of colleagues and good friends leave the company after a number of redundancy consultations, which he felt fortunate to survive.
The one thing that Richard had not experienced, however, was being put through the disciplinary process.
That was until he was involved a dispute with a colleague who accused him of throwing a boxed item of stock at him in a dispute over who was responsible for returning it to the sender.
Richard, who denied the allegation, was issued with a final written warning. What made matters even worse, was that his employer issued the disciplinary sanction based on an allegation it did not put to him prior to a disciplinary hearing.
When Richard was invited to attend the hearing it was to face an allegation of being rude and aggressive to a colleague.
The hearing was chaired by Richard’s manager, who also conducted the investigation stage of the disciplinary process and made his own personal allegations of unprofessional conduct against Richard during the meeting.
In the outcome letter the allegation of throwing a box at a colleague was dismissed. The final written warning was issued for ‘repeated acts of unprofessional conduct towards colleagues.’
Richard believed it was unfair and he contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
He provided our representative with all of the paperwork and discussed the case with her. Richard wanted to know if he had grounds to challenge the disciplinary outcome, and he was informed that he did.
Our representative wrote and submitted an appeal letter to the company on Richard’s behalf. This initiated the disciplinary appeals process.
Richard was invited to attend a disciplinary appeal hearing. Prior to the hearing our representative requested evidence to support the allegation of repeated acts of unprofessional conduct towards colleagues.
She was provided with the statement from the worker who said Richard threw a box at him and one from the manager who chaired the hearing. The manager’s statement listed incidents, the most recent of which was said to have taken place three months earlier.
At the hearing our representative presented a wide-ranging argument to challenge the outcome and highlight that the process was unfair
She told the hearing there was a clear conflict of interests in the manager conducting the investigation, chairing the disciplinary and now providing a witness statement. This was said to be a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice as the company clearly had the resources to ensure different people conducted different parts of the process
It was also argued that the company unfairly issued the warning for matters not put to Richard with evidence prior to the disciplinary hearing.
Our representative maintained that as the allegation of throwing a box had been dismissed, it was unfair and illogical to rely on his statement as evidence of Richard’s unprofessional conduct towards colleagues.
She said the manager also unreasonably delayed raising his allegations, presented no evidence to support them and in failing to act promptly he had effectively endorsed the conduct he was now complaining about.
The appeal hearing chair asked a number of questions to clarify points of the appeal before adjourning the hearing. The following week Richard received a letter informing him that his appeal had been successful, and the warning overturned and removed from his record.
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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