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The trouble if the message gets lost in the music

Published: 

Thu 19 March, 2020

Misunderstanding

It is understandable that a parent will do what they can to support their child but if that puts their job at risk it’s fair to ask: was it really worth it?

Construction worker Wes was accused of threatening behaviour after posting a link to his son’s music video on a work WhatsApp group.

His son, an aspiring rapper, spoke in the track about taking revenge and used a slang term said to refer to stabbing someone. The timing was terrible for Wes.

Earlier the same day Wes had a bust-up with a workmate with whom he had a strained working relationship. The pair had to be held apart when a row became heated. The incident led to both men being suspended from work.

The employee complained that Wes had threatened him and that in posting a link to the video to the group, knowing he was a member of it and would see it, was a direct threat to him.

At a disciplinary hearing Wes faced a single allegation of threatening behaviour.

Wes and his colleague had been involved in a number of disagreements with each other and been given informal warnings. Wes always maintained he was the innocent party.

To address the matter a mediation session was arranged.  Wes described the session as useless and unprofessional.

He said it effectively consisted of the manager being abusive and shouting and swearing at the pair and telling them to grow up and to stop acting like kids.

The employer said that given the history between both men it had to take the allegation seriously.

The fallout between the pair dated back over a year and was triggered by a formal grievance. Wes was a witness in that investigation, which led to the dismissal of the brother of the man now making the allegation against him.

The evidence against Wes for his disciplinary hearing included a statement from the complainant, a screenshot of the WhatsApp message and statements from other members of the group simply describing the nature of the music video and nothing else.

Fearing the worse Wes contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative explained that the timing of Wes’s message was a coincidence and nothing more. He maintained that Wes did not intend the video as a threat.

The hearing was told Wes was proud of his son, and although not a big fan of the style of music, wanted to share it with younger colleagues who liked that type of music. It was explained that the lyrics were in keeping with what is a popular music genre.

The disciplinary hearing chair was provided with two other messages from Wes to the group in which he had shared links to his son’s music. This was used to argue that Wes’s actions were consistent and not malicious or sinister.

Wes denied threatening his colleague during the incident. It was pointed out that there was no independent witness evidence to corroborate such a claim.

The witness statements were also referred to and said to essentially be descriptions of the video content, and not evidence of Wes making a threat.

The company was told it should take some responsibility for the situation as the botched mediation was a missed opportunity to address matters, which escalated as a result.

It was said Wes was willing to try professional mediation, regretted getting involved in a matter that had given the business cause for concern and had taken appropriate learning from it.

Wes was asked a series of questions regarding the allegation, his son’s music and his working relationships before the hearing was adjourned for a decision to be made.

After a lengthy adjournment Wes was cleared of any wrongdoing. He was issued with advice about his future conduct and professional mediation was arranged. It seemed to work as there were no further issues between the pair.

 

 

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 For 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

 

 

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