Call us for a free Consultation on: 0333 772 0611

When workplace pranks are no laughing matter


Wed 24 April, 2019

Laughing cartoon

When workplace pranks are no laughing matter

We all like a good laugh at a practical joke but when such pranks go wrong in the workplace they can have serious repercussions.

Sharon discovered this to her cost when workplace high jinks backfired at a Derbyshire-based manufacturing site. Sharon was dismissed when she and two female colleagues were alleged to have tied up a colleague with tape and Clingfilm before locking her in a storeroom ‘for a laugh’.

The other two women involved resigned when initial allegations of illegal restraint and kidnapping were put to them.

Sharon was present briefly but did not play an active role in what took place. By the time she arrived on the scene the worker’s upper body had been tied up. Sharon did not join in but stood laughing as her workmate’s legs were tied, and she left as this was being done.

However, Sharon was suspended and later invited to attend a disciplinary hearing to face allegations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour.

Sharon did not take advantage of her statutory right to be accompanied to a disciplinary hearing by a work colleague or trade union representative. She explained at the meeting that what happened was the usual workplace banter and joking around.

At the hearing the employer produced mobile phone footage of the incident for the first time and used this in making its decision to dismiss Sharon. She was devastated and contacted Castle Associates employee support centre for help.

One of our representatives later spoke to Sharon and reviewed the case paperwork, evidence and outcome. He explained that based on the information he believed she had been unfairly dismissed. He wrote an appeal letter for her and requested all of the information used in making the decision, including a copy of the mobile phone footage.

In preparation for any type of hearing our representatives can help an employee to request any information they believe their employer may have that can assist their case.

At the disciplinary appeal hearing our representative was able to identify numerous inconsistencies, contradictions and flaws in the evidence. He established and argued that Sharon’s mitigation – which included 10 years’ service, exemplary disciplinary record, the fact she had shown remorse and her non active role in the incident - was never properly considered.

He also argued that the disciplinary process was unfair. Pointing out the company breached the ACAS Code of Practice in originally withholding the mobile phone footage. In addition the employer also failed to hold an investigation meeting despite its disciplinary policy making it expressly clear that it will always do so before making a decision to instigate disciplinary action.

There was also a key bit of evidence captured in the mobile phone footage. The apparent victim of the prank was filmed laughing and joking and also captured saying ‘you better not leave me in here as long as we did to **** when we did it to him last week.’ A supervisor was aware of this previous incident and took no action.

Our representative used this to support Sharon’s assertion that there was an established and therefore recognised and accepted culture of banter and fooling around in the workplace, and that in singling her out in this way she justifiably felt victimised.

Sharon’s desired outcome to the appeal was to be reinstated as she had been unable to find alternative work, she had financial commitments she had to meet and the site was local and convenient. At the end of the hearing the employer said it would write to her with an outcome.

A few days later Sharon was notified the decision had been overturned. She was reinstated and issued with a verbal reprimand and warned about her future conduct based on the fact she admitted doing nothing to help her colleague.

As a result of the case the employer vowed that it would make all staff aware of what it considered to be unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

“A reputation built on success”

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


Were here to help when you need it.

   "A reputation built on Success"

We offer support on a wide range of employment law and HR issues. Our dedicated adviser are here to answer your questions and help you with your concerns. Your call is free and with no oblgation. Calls may be recorded for monitoring and training purposes.

Call us today on 0333 772 0611 or request a call back

Minimize close

Request a call back




Very helpful 15 minute consultation. Would be happy to consult again. Many thanks.



I got a call back from them on the same day and it's been very helpful and understanding,Many thanks



What an amazing team. I recently found myself on suspension after a call of mine was monitored by the company I work for. I felt at the time that it was unfair and did acknowledge the mistake straight away.



Fantastic support and high quality service in a difficult time of my life. I got clear advice on my rights and would definitely recommend Castle Associates to anyone.



Brilliant advice. Gave me fantastic invaluable advice on my situation and I would definitely highly recommend using them.



From a very horrible 2 years of grievances with my work manager and work place of 10 years. I unfortunately was left at a dismissal hearing with no representation or Union member to help me show and explain my side of the issues involved.



I emailed last night and received a call back this morning from the adviser. She was extremely patient and helpful. Thank you.



Emailed for some advice and my call was returned in less that 12 hours - very happy with advice given.



Very helpful answering my queries, they got in touch very quickly and provided with free advice over the phone.



I appreciated the time with an adviser who lead important information to me and was very supportive.