Patricia Pearl - Small Claims Procedure - A Practical Guide


An excellent guide for the layperson in how to use the County Court - a must if you are intending to start a claim.

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  1. #1
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Hi there,

    I'm seeking some advice for my husband who faces a disciplinary hearing today in his work in relation to gross misconduct.

    He has worked for this well known bank for 5 years now and has an unblemished record. I would even go as far to say that he is extremely well thought of.

    Ok the background of the hearing is this: back in July a colleague of my husband's sent on a forwarded email that contained some rather inappropriate content and this person had already been warned about their email use and had been warned that she was going to be monitored as a result. Anyhow, my husband, without even reading the email, pressed Control and F (to forward) and sent it onto my email address (used by us both) and to his 2 best friends. Then just 3 weeks ago, the girl that originally received the email and forwarded it on was informed that she was facing disciplinary action. After a hearing she was suspended indefinitely until a full investigation could be carried out. It appears that as part of this investigation they checked who received this email and who forwarded it on. My husband was called into a meeting just last Thursday for a "fact finding" exercise, where he was asked about the email. He admitted that he forwarded it (obviously since they knew that anyway!) but was honestly not aware of the content (he didn't even know the content until he checked it after this girl was suspended).

    He's really really upset by it and thinks he's messed everything up for us - me, him and our 17 month old daughter - and doesn't know what to do. I'm currently unemployed due to redundancyicon (ironically made redundant in July) so that would put us in a very precarious financial situation.

    Could anyone provide any advice as to what he could do so that he wouldn't be sacked? Or is that even a possibility?

    Many thanks in advance.

    Oh and the company do have a clear internet/emails policy.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    I would write a statement stating what happened. That the e-mail wasn't even opened. That on the face of it, it looks bad. That he regrets passing it on, that to that point he has been an excellent employee. This is totally out of character and it will never happen again. Print off a copy for all the people in the meeting. He just needs to say 'could they spend a couple of minutes reading his statement'.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    If he's in the Union he could postpone it to get representation.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Are the bank trying to get rid of staff?
    Incident happened in July, but they haven't carried out a through investigation until now. Doesn't add up.


  5. #5
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    This bank did get rid of a few people a few months back, but they met their quota through voluntary redundancies.

    This original email was back in July but they monitored her emails for 3 months as a result. It now seems that they're going back through all the inappropriate ones and finding out if any of the people that received them forwarded them on. My husband found out today that there a further 2 people who have a hearing today as well as someone tomorrow.

    A colleague of his, who is currently on holidayicon, mentioned to him last night that he thinks he'll be facing the same thing when he comes back because he forwarded on this original email too.

    I don't know if in the grand scheme of things they'll dismiss 6 people (including the original girl), or whether they'll just give them all final warnings? Having read through this email/internet policy it does state can "normally lead to dismissalicon but can just be a final warning". I'm just trying to fathom out what he could do so that he only gets the latter. I like the statement idea though thanks, I'll mention that one to him. The hearing's not until 3pm so he would have time.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    I would go with the statement, reason being is that when your in the meeting the mind can go blank. When you leave the meeting, you wish you said something you couldn't remember at the time.
    Good Luck. I'm sure he'll be fine.
    Don't forget he has the right to appeal. Don't take it as done and dusted.
    They should have carried out thier investigations in July not 3 months later. That is unacceptable.


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    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    My husband did the statement as you suggested and he mentioned that the manager and HR rep there seemed quite impressed by it.

    Unfortunately he won't find out the outcome for another few days but he was told that there would be 1 of 4 outcomes:

    1. No action taken
    2. A written warning
    3. A final warning
    4. dismissalicon

    He'll be told either face to face or via a letter so fingers crossed it's one of the first 2, or at an absolute worse, the 3rd.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    lynniethepooh84,

    Lets hope it's 1 and that they realise they have a good employee with lots to offer, an error of judgement shouldn't result in any action, just a talking too. I'll be crossing my fingers too. Let us know how it goes. Then we can make further suggestions.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    I have thing to add, which doesn't appear to have been covered:

    The fact that your husband did not open the email before forwarding it may not do his case any good. It could have the reverse effect of further repercussions. This is assuming you and his friends whom he forwarded the email to, did not work for the bank at the time the email was forwarded.

    The bank may be concerned from a security point of view, why your husband forwarded an email received from a colleague at the bank, without reading the content to three people who do not work for the bank (you, and his two best friends), and wonder how could he have been certain that the email did not contain information which was of a sensitive nature, not intended to be read by the public if he had not opened it?

    If the bank have not already covered this angle, I would be prepared for it.

    My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

    Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.
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  10. #10
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by rebel11 View Post
    lynniethepooh84,

    Lets hope it's 1 and that they realise they have a good employee with lots to offer, an error of judgement shouldn't result in any action, just a talking too. I'll be crossing my fingers too. Let us know how it goes. Then we can make further suggestions.
    There has still been no decision yet but my husband has phoned me with some new information that has come to light. A girl from another team had her disciplinary this morning. She took all the disciplinary procedure notes home with her, as well as the copy of the internet/email policy that she had signed. Her dad pointed out to her that the policy was dated August 2009 and this said incident occurred in July. He encouraged her to challenge that at the meeting and ask them to provide a copy of an earlier signed policy, if there was one. She and my husband don't believe they have signed one before. They've both went through their signed contracts and this is also not mentioned in there. Her meeting ended up being adjourned as a result of this.

    I know it's entirely besides the point and it's just a loophole because both admit that they forwarded on the email, but what would the position be if there is not a signed copy of the policy, i.e. stating that they would comply with it?


  11. #11
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by ErikaPNP View Post
    I have thing to add, which doesn't appear to have been covered:

    The fact that your husband did not open the email before forwarding it may not do his case any good. It could have the reverse effect of further repercussions. This is assuming you and his friends whom he forwarded the email to, did not work for the bank at the time the email was forwarded.

    The bank may be concerned from a security point of view, why your husband forwarded an email received from a colleague at the bank, without reading the content to three people who do not work for the bank (you, and his two best friends), and wonder how could he have been certain that the email did not contain information which was of a sensitive nature, not intended to be read by the public if he had not opened it?

    If the bank have not already covered this angle, I would be prepared for it.
    Nope nothing like that at all was asked at the disciplinary at all to be honest, even though he was fully expecting it. He just said it was more a matter of, "are you aware of the company's internet/email policy, of which you have a signed copy of (dated August 2009!)?". He said that he was and then handed over his statement that reiterated that it was out of character for him and that if he had more time he would have read the email and discarded it, and then just apologised for it and said it would never EVER happen again. They said they had noticed when going through his email activity that he only ever sent work related emails so agreed that it was out of character. Then it ended with them saying he'd be notified of the decision within a few days. I don't really know what to take from it.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    If your not happy with the Decision Appeal, as I said, something that happened in July is being investigated now, policy dated August 2009.
    Three months later. Best to see what they say, I think he will be fine.
    To investigate something like this should only take a week at best, not three months. Thats why it doesn't sound right to me.


  13. #13
    Basic Account Holder monkeychicken Novitiate monkeychicken's Avatar

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by lynniethepooh84 View Post
    There has still been no decision yet but my husband has phoned me with some new information that has come to light. A girl from another team had her disciplinary this morning. She took all the disciplinary procedure notes home with her, as well as the copy of the internet/email policy that she had signed. Her dad pointed out to her that the policy was dated August 2009 and this said incident occurred in July. He encouraged her to challenge that at the meeting and ask them to provide a copy of an earlier signed policy, if there was one. She and my husband don't believe they have signed one before. They've both went through their signed contracts and this is also not mentioned in there. Her meeting ended up being adjourned as a result of this.

    I know it's entirely besides the point and it's just a loophole because both admit that they forwarded on the email, but what would the position be if there is not a signed copy of the policy, i.e. stating that they would comply with it?

    This is actually quite good because they cannot apply policies retrospectively. So, I would just hold onto this information for the appeal. If the disciplinary decision is not too severe, I would keep quiet, but if the its a dismissalicon, I would then bring up this particular issue.


    Regarding the issue of security, which they haven't yet raised, your husband could always argue that (as I did, successfully) he was quite aware that the company had very good anti-virus products protecting the system, he nbelieved it to be amongst the best in the world. Therefore the issue of security was not really a major concern (the email had been scanned and approved when it entered the company system so your husband was pretty confident that it was virus free when he forwarded it.

    I am not a lawyer, so all my advice is provided on the basis that you will check them with a trained legal professional with legal insurance.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by monkeychicken View Post
    This is actually quite good because they cannot apply policies retrospectively. So, I would just hold onto this information for the appeal. If the disciplinary decision is not too severe, I would keep quiet, but if the its a dismissalicon, I would then bring up this particular issue.


    Regarding the issue of security, which they haven't yet raised, your husband could always argue that (as I did, successfully) he was quite aware that the company had very good anti-virus products protecting the system, he nbelieved it to be amongst the best in the world. Therefore the issue of security was not really a major concern (the email had been scanned and approved when it entered the company system so your husband was pretty confident that it was virus free when he forwarded it.

    To the 1st para
    Agreed but it will depend on the content of the email. If it was grossly offensive by any reasonable standard then it's still a disciplinary offence & dependant on how offensive will determine how serious its viewed by the employer.

    Without knowing the nature of the content its difficult to advise but I would not rely on the retrospective argument as they will simply say as an adult he should have known better without the need to sign a document

    Last para
    This would be the best defence you didn't know nor care as evidenced by your not opening it & because you assumed with justification that the email was sanctioned

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  15. #15
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Thanks rebel and monkeychicken. I definitely agree with you now rebel that something doesn't add up with all this. I hope the fact that someone else facing the same disciplinary action has pointed this anomaly out, then everyone might benefit as a result.


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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Keep positive, they might be opening a can of worms, hopefully they will decide that it's best to close the can before they start to look stupid.


  17. #17
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by JonCris View Post
    To the 1st para
    Agreed but it will depend on the content of the email. If it was grossly offensive by any reasonable standard then it's still a disciplinary offence & dependant on how offensive will determine how serious its viewed by the employer.

    Without knowing the nature of the content its difficult to advise but I would not rely on the retrospective argument as they will simply say as an adult he should have known better without the need to sign a document

    Last para
    This would be the best defence you didn't know nor care as evidenced by your not opening it & because you assumed with justification that the email was sanctioned
    Sorry must have cross posted with you!

    Yeah definitely not debating that at all, he should have read it before passing it on (he definitely wouldn't have if he did). What I am confused by though is the fact that they've then brought this policy out after the event and got everyone to sign it, and are then using it to enforce disciplinary action? It just sounds not right to me at all now. Additionally if they were going to say "they should have known better anyway", why would they adjourn this other girls disciplinary after her bringing this matter up? They had the most senior of HR people there, as well as the senior manager for the entire area so they should have known to argue that point surely?

    Sorry just finding it all rather confusing and worrying!


  18. #18
    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by rebel11 View Post
    Keep positive, they might be opening a can of worms, hopefully they will decide that it's best to close the can before they start to look stupid.
    Thanks . I hope so!


  19. #19
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    Smile Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Quote Originally Posted by lynniethepooh84 View Post
    Thanks rebel and monkeychicken. I definitely agree with you now rebel that something doesn't add up with all this. I hope the fact that someone else facing the same disciplinary action has pointed this anomaly out, then everyone might benefit as a result.
    I would suggest the reason something does not add up is they looked into the matter and found many people were misusing the email system. The reason they appear to be hesitant is because they know that they would have to take action against a very large number of people and a strong defence would be that they allowed such misuse to go on, and it had become "acceptable".

    I also forwarded one single email ever to my personal address. It was indeed grossly offensive.

    I used to get many offensive email, but deleted them without opening them. Only once I got an email from my best mate that I had lost touch with over 15 years ago and forwarded it to my home email address.

    They investigated my account going back six years and only found the one. My defence was that I knew that it was offensive but did not know how offensive.

    Besides, I discovered that they made a decision not to take action against anyone 'as the matter was too widespread'. They took only me to disciplinary for 3 things with respect to the email:

    personal use of company equipment
    sending offensive emails
    security issue


    I established that there was a threshold of personal use accepted in the case of all other officers. Did this by showing many others used the emails for personal use regularly, whereas I only used it once in six years.

    I established that others regularly sent racist, sexist and otherwise offensive emails without any sanctions. So there was an acceptable threshold of offensiveness that the company tolerated. They did not demonstrate I had exceeded that threshold.

    The security issue I deal with as mentioned above.

    They dismissedicon those charges (and also every single one of the thirty or so other charges)

    My Barrister seems to think that I could get a promotion (that they had denied me in 2006) and a tidy sum in settlement, as he thinks I have an excellent case.


    So dont worry. My guess is that it will be a slap on the wrist, but if it is any more, you will have recourse to the ET.
    Good luck

    I am not a lawyer, so all my advice is provided on the basis that you will check them with a trained legal professional with legal insurance.
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    Basic Account Holder lynniethepooh84 Novitiate

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    Default Re: Disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct (inappropriate email)

    Hiya, sorry just to give a quick update. My husband still hasn't heard anything, but received an email this morning - ironically - to say that he'll find out the outcome between 12:30 and 3pm. We're thinking it's because they're letting everyone know that there's such a big time frame involved.

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