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Happy ending after workplace heartbreak

Published: 

Wed 17 October, 2018

Rubik cube

If we fallout with those closet to us, the break-up can sometimes be bitter and acrimonious.

After Joe, a customer service advisor, ended his relationship with his girlfriend after eight years he faced much more than an emotional battle to mend a broken heart. A social media post left him fighting to save his job.

The case was complicated by the fact the couple worked together and, unbeknown to Joe, she had started a relationship with a male colleague.

Her new boyfriend had also previously submitted a formal grievance against Joe. The allegation of Joe making inappropriate comments to him was not upheld.

Joe did his best to maintain his professionalism and cool in the face of the relationship and while working in the same department as the pair. He felt a huge sense of relief when they eventually left the company a short time later.

On a works night out Joe bumped into the couple in the city centre. There was a loud exchange of insults initiated by his former male colleague, who had to be physically restrained while he repeatedly threatened Joe. This was witnessed by colleagues.

Joe later took to social media to vent his fury at individuals who he did not name, but referred to as ‘snakes’. It was an expletive-laden tirade about being betrayed, which was quickly deleted. 

When Joe returned to work a couple of days later he was summoned to his manager’s office for what was said to be an investigation meeting.

Joe was shown a copy of his social media post and informed a complaint had been made against him. He admitted making the post and who it referred to, insisted it was not inappropriate and that he was letting off steam after being threatened.

Joe was suspended from work and told not to contact the couple. That evening he got several insulting, abusive and threatening text messages from his ex-girlfriend. One referred to him being suspended and gloating that he was going to get the sack and she would ruin him.

Joe was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing to face allegations of bringing the company into disrepute and breaching its social media policy. 

He was provided with the evidence to be used against him, which was an email from his ex-girlfriend and her partner and a copy of the company social media policy.

Joe contacted the Castle Associates employee support centre for help.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative maintained that Joe had faced extreme provocation, and largely maintained his cool given the way his relationship ended and having to work alongside his ex-girlfriend and her new partner. He told the hearing there was significant mitigation in the case.

Our representative highlighted that following the breakdown of Joe’s relationship, and while still working alongside the couple, he was praised for his work and hit all targets.

Witness statements gathered from colleagues on the night out were also handed to the disciplinary hearing chair. Copies of the text messages Joe was sent after being suspended were also presented to the hearing. These were provided as evidence to show the type abuse Joe was subjected to, and his remarkable restraint in not responding to the messages.

Our representative also asserted that the disciplinary investigation did not produce any evidence to suggest the employer’s reputation had been damaged or brought into disrepute.

Bringing the employer into disrepute usually means the employee acting in a way which is incompatible with the employer's public profile or values, or doing something which would ordinarily be offensive: for example, sexual misconduct or drug-taking which reflects badly on the employer by association.

The fact Joe did not refer to the couple by name in his social media post and voiced his frustration at ‘snakes’ was said to be controlled in the circumstances. Our representative insisted this could not reasonably be considered as a breach of the company’s personal use of social media, as it did not interfere with Joe’s employment responsibilities or productivity as stated in the policy.

Joe did express regret for being involved in a matter that gave the company cause for concern and assured the hearing chair that he had taken appropriate learning from what took place.

Joe was cleared of any wrongdoing and given an informal warning about his future conduct. The actions of the couple were later reported to their employer, and although the outcome is unknown, both left the company they worked for afterwards.

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