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A distressing journey before being cleared of disciplinary allegations

Published: 

Wed 30 January, 2019

Hand cuffs

When teaching assistant Jess crashed her car the actions of her employer really did add insult to injury.

She suffered cuts, bruises and a back injury following the late-night collision on her way home from a night out.

Jess, not her real name, had to take several weeks off work. When she eventually returned she was informed that her employer was going to carry out a disciplinary investigation  .

Jess collided with another vehicle being driven by a reality TV star, who suffered minor injuries. The collision was reported in the local newspaper, and it was that report that helped to create problems for Jess.

In the article, that did not name Jess, it reported that the female driver was arrested on suspicion of drink driving after failing a roadside breath test. The result showed that she was just over the limit.

After being released by police Jess wrote a social media post about the accident. She said she had never heard of the person who she collided with, queried what talent they had and why the individual appeared to be fairly well-known.

The school where Jess worked was made aware of the newspaper report and social media post. When Jess had recovered, and returned to work a couple of weeks later she was immediately suspended from work.

The reason for suspension was that Jess failed to inform the school she had been arrested, which breached the terms of her employment contract.

Jess insisted that she was never charged with an offence and had been cleared of blame in the collision. She was informed by the school that she would be given an opportunity to explain herself at an investigation meeting.

The school allowed employees to be accompanied by a companion at an investigation meeting, which employers do not have to do.

Desperate Jess then contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

When Jess spoke to our representative she explained that while she failed the roadside breath test she later took a blood and urine test, which revealed she was not over the limit.

The breathalyser test result had shown that Jess had 42mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – the legal limit is 35. Because her reading was between 40 and 50mg, she had a right to ask for a blood or urine test, which are said to be more accurate.

Our representative asked Jess to request a letter from the police to show that she had not been charged. She was able to obtain a letter that confirmed no further action was to be taken against her in relation to the collision.

At the investigation meeting with the school our representative helped Jess to explain her case. The school’s investigating officer was presented with a copy of the police letter.

The meeting was told Jess planned to inform the school of the incident at her return to work interview, but was suspended immediately and therefore denied an opportunity to do so.

The investigating officer questioned Jess about her social media post after the accident and appeared to suggest it was in breach of the school’s social media policy. The investigating officer said Jess’s post made disparaging remarks about the other driver, which can be considered a breach of the school’s social media policy.

Our representative pointed out the other driver was not that well-known and Jess merely queried who the individual was and why they were said to be famous as she had never heard of the individual. He maintained that no reasonable employer would consider the post to be inappropriate.

The meeting was adjourned and Jess was told she would be informed what would happen next, and if she would be required to attend a formal disciplinary hearing

Jess was told the following week that no further action would be taken against her.

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