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When lending a helping hand leads to big trouble

Published: 

Wed 8 May, 2019

Hands all linked together

When lending a helping hand leads to big trouble

It takes tremendous courage for an employee to support a workmate when they are in trouble with management.

When one of Susan’s colleagues, who was also a good friend, was facing disciplinary action at the travel firm where they worked, she willingly volunteered to help.

What Susan did not realise at the time was that her selfless act would have huge ramifications.

Susan’s colleague faced a disciplinary hearing accused of fraud and stealing from the company.

The employer had substantial evidence to support the allegations and a police investigation was also looking into the matter.

An employee has a statutory right to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing by a colleague or trade union representative.

The colleague protested her innocence and asked Susan, who had worked for the company for more than 15 years, to accompany her to the disciplinary hearing. Susan agreed to do so.

The colleague was dismissed, submitted an unsuccessful appeal and subsequently made a claim to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Susan remained in contact with her former colleague and they enjoyed a night out together for a mutual friend’s birthday. The friendship predated the ex colleague’s employment with the company.

One day Susan was asked to attend a meeting in her manager’s office and the HR manager was also present. During that meeting Susan was accused of conspiring with her colleague to steal from the company.

Susan faced a barrage of questions, which she described as feeling like an interrogation.

The HR manager produced personal emails that Susan had sent to her colleague from her work email and social media images and posts, and she used them to insist that Susan must have known what was going on. Susan was adamant that she did not.

It was then alleged that Susan only supported her colleague at the disciplinary hearing to try and cover up what they had been up to.

The evidence presented to Susan demonstrated that the two were friends, but there was no direct evidence of any wrongdoing.

Susan insisted that she had no knowledge of what her former colleague had been up to, and that she had not done anything wrong. Susan was suspended from work and later invited to attend a disciplinary hearing.

The invite to the hearing listed one allegation, which was that the company had lost trust and confidence in Susan.

She contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help with the hearing. Our representative met with Susan to discuss the case, review the evidence and to establish what her desired outcome was.

Susan was appalled by the way she had been treated after being a long-serving and loyal employee. Although she loved her job, Susan felt she had lost all trust in the company and she wanted to clear her name and move on.

Our representative discussed a settlement agreement with Susan, and she agreed that would be her desired outcome.

At the hearing our representative argued that the alleged loss of trust and confidence must be for some other substantial reason. He highlighted that no other allegation had been put to Susan and therefore there was no substantial reason to justify a loss of trust and confidence. He also referred to employment law on this matter.

It was accepted that there was evidence of a friendship. It was explained that the pair were pals long before Susan’s former colleague was employed by the company.

Our representative initiated a conversation about a settlement. It was discussed during the hearing and negotiations continued in the days after the hearing. A settlement was eventually agreed and Susan received a substantial five-figure sum as a financial payment as part of the agreement.

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