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Case Studies

Case Study: In fear of retribution
The Client
A midlands based creative design and production company had received a complaint from one its employees about two other employees who had been making race hate and homophobic comments. The employee had been so alarmed by the nature of the comments made and the videos that they were showing that he covertly recorded them on his mobile phone and brought it to the attention of the Managing Director.

The Challenge
The MD was very concerned when he heard the recording and started to investigate the matter. However, he quickly discovered that whilst other members of staff were upset by the comments that had been made, they were not prepared to put their names to any complaint as the two employees in question were known for bragging how many people they had beaten up outside the pub in their biker gangs at weekends. The staff were genuinely in fear of potential retribution. The MD believed that he had heard enough and dismissed the two employees immediately on the grounds of gross misconduct, mistakenly thinking that this was what summary dismissal meant.

The Solution
He contacted Helen Astill from Cherington HR to tell her what had happened and to ask for some support with regards to the appropriate paperwork when the two employees had appealed. Helen explained that he should have suspended the employees and given them their full rights to explain the situation and provided them with the appropriate evidence before making a decision to dismiss. It was clear that the witnesses were not going to provide signed statements, so it was agreed that the evidence would be gathered as a questionnaire and the data compiled following the Acas guidelines so that it was anonymous, but still compelling. Helen helped draft the letters inviting the dismissed employees to an appeal meeting designed to rectify the earlier procedural faults and accompanied the MD at the appeal hearings. One of the employees failed to attend, but the other accepted the decision to dismiss him on seeing the collated evidence.

The Results
The MD had been extremely worried about the potential ramifications of the situation - in particular about the need to protect his other members of staff. He had not appreciated the need to follow procedures even if the evidence was extremely convincing and had been quite anxious at the thought of facing the two dismissed employees. He was therefore very pleased to have Helen supporting him through the process and has said that next time he will call her before taking action, rather than afterwards!

Key words: Disciplinary; Gross Misconduct; Investigation; Dismissal; Appeal; Correcting Procedural Errors; Anonymous Witness Statements; Fear of Threatening Employees


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