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'Gross Misconduct'


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Hi

Any help on this would be grateful!

My son’s girlfriend got dismissed on Friday!

It says ‘gross misconduct’ but I think they are been really petty about the whole thing.

A quick summery of what happened so please bare with me.

A few weeks ago she threw the office rubbish away on a ‘tip’ on the way to work. It turns out the tip is an illegal dumping ground that is used and the Environmental Health contacted her. When work questioned her, she openly admitted it was her, she didn’t realize it was illegal to dump rubbish there. Anyway, they gave her a disciplinary hearing, which she says was more like a chit chat over a cuppa than a serious meeting. They said they were impressed that she made the effort to sort matters out, glad that she was straight forward about it etc then sacked her saying she had thrown away confidential information.

Now I have rung up for info and realize that even if she had thrown the confidential info anywhere, it wasn’t her at fault but the firms. They should have trained her in the data protection act and they didn’t. I think the real reason they sacked her is because she had a sick period of 3 weeks in December that they were unhappy about

Where do we go from here and what are your thoughts!

Cheers

J*J*

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Hi there. Without knowing a little more information it is difficult to advise. How long has she worked for the company? Was she correctly notified that it was a Disciplinary Hearing? Had she been warned previously? Was she asked to dump the paperwork or was she using initiative? Is there a specific procedure in place for disposing of paperwork? Was she given the right to be accompanied at the meeting and has she been given the right to appeal?

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Hi

Thanks for your reply!

She has worked there for 18 months. They did notify her with a letter about the disciplinary meeting. She has never had any previous warnings, either verbal or written. We have appealed against the decision and are awaiting the letter to arrange an appeal meeting.

She has always taken the litter home with her if she missed the collection at work, she thought she was doing them a favour. She has never had any instruction how to dispose of confidential information at all. Like I said, its more to do with the sickness she had rather than the rubbish disposal. Its a small firm with 2 bosses who did the hearing, so she isnt going to get her job back but it will shock them when they realise shes appealing. Shes really quiet and doesnt say a word wrong to anybody. I hate the way these small firms treat their workers!

Sorry rant over!!

Cheers

J*J*

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OK. Lets try to deal with the points in order. I agree about poor treatment of workers in any organisation and very often their downfall is a lack of knowledge of correct legal procedure - even in large blue-chip organisations. You say that she had a letter. This should have outlined the allegation against her, and should have stated that she had the right to be accompanied. She should have had access to Terms and Conditions of Employment on joining the company. These may have been in a Staff Handbook format, and there should be a section relating to Disciplinary Procedures. Gross Misconduct is quite a wide area, which covers obvious areas, such as theft, violence or being under the influence of drugs or drink. It will also often include clauses relating to inappropriate use of company property, phones e mail or internet facilities, bringing the company into disrepute, leaking confidential information or negligence. It sounds as though your son's girlfriend may have been accused of one of the last three examples. Nevertheless, this would still have to be covered by a policy, or else how would she have been aware of wrongdoing? The dismissal must have been confirmed in writing stating exactly what she has been dismissed for, citing relevant rules which have been breached. What does the letter say?

 

I have to say that disposal of confidential information through any method short of secure destruction would be looked on fairly seriously by most organisations, and it may also bring action under the Data Protection Act if customers' data was involved. Nevertheless, there should be guidelines in place to instruct staff in the correct disposal of such paperwork. Was she asked to dispose of this information by anybody else? Were the bosses aware that she usually took material home to dispose of?

 

You say that you believe that her recent absence was a factor. Was this mentioned in the original letter, during the meeting or in any subsequent conversation? If not then I do not think that you can use this as they will never admit to it. Your best approach will probably be to aim for a breach of statutory minimum disciplinary procedures.

Any advice given is done so on the assumption that recipients will also take professional advice where appropriate.

 

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Hi

Thanks for your reply. The Enviromental Health Officer who spoke to her on this matter said he had wrote to the firm at least 10 days before they actually spoke to her about it. The firm must have known all about it but not said a thing untill when they mentioned it on Fri evening, about half hour before her finish time!

I have read the Staff Handbook and Im sure it said Gross Misconduct was drinking fighting stealing and Health and Safety Issues, cannot remember seeing anything else!

The two bosses were aware of it, but on the termination letter it said following direct instuction not to take litter of the estate which is a load of c**p. The reasond for dismissal were, dumping rubbish illegally and disposing of confidential information.

They also said stuff in the disciplinary hearing like, 'we all make mistakes so dont you worry about it!' Asked her how her parents were, and asked my son how his operation went! It was not professional at all. She never recieved any minites of the disciplinary hearing, just a dismissal letter. It makes me believe they were waiting for her to do something wrong!

They did say she could take someone to the hearing, It said a friend I think. We have sent an appeal letter in and are just waiting for thier reply.

The confidential Info she threw asay was in the communal office bins, she didnt know what it was as she just puts stuff in a bin bag!

Cheers

J*J*

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