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What if an employer makes false and exaggerated allegations?


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I am currently in a situation where my wifes pharmacy company has brought a series of false, exaggerated and downright incorrect allegations against her, suspended her on full pay, held a disciplinary hearing and now, apparently although it has not happened yet, will be not be dismissing her but giving her a final warning for gross misconduct. It has been what can best be described as a witch hunt where the directors have made false allegations, lied, fabricated evidence and made it very hard to provide an defence.

We intend to submit for an appeal hearing and also to submit a grievance. I think it is fair to say that they have acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" towards her but the question is, can they act in this way and hide behind the Employment Legislation by just saying they had "reasonable suspicion" and get away with it?

We are seriously considering her resigning and bringing a constructive dismissal case and are researching the possibilities as it will be very hard for her to return to her position after this escapade.

All and any thoughts welcomed.

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If you are considering Constructive Dismissal, DO NOT do so without first getting the best possible legal advice available (you may have cover for employment disputes on your home insurance). CD is virtually impossible to win and the chances of any sort of financial compensation even in a successful claim are negligible.

 

An employer does only need to have reasonable grounds to suspect GM in order to take disciplinary action and many thousands of employees are disadvantaged by that burden of proof creating unjust disciplinary sanctions. You need to appeal the decision, citing as many grounds as possible which the employer is unable to counter - witnesses and documentary evidence if possible.

 

I know this must be extremely distressing, but your wife should not do anything hasty.

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

 

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If you are considering Constructive Dismissal, DO NOT do so without first getting the best possible legal advice available (you may have cover for employment disputes on your home insurance). CD is virtually impossible to win and the chances of any sort of financial compensation even in a successful claim are negligible.

 

An employer does only need to have reasonable grounds to suspect GM in order to take disciplinary action and many thousands of employees are disadvantaged by that burden of proof creating unjust disciplinary sanctions. You need to appeal the decision, citing as many grounds as possible which the employer is unable to counter - witnesses and documentary evidence if possible.

 

I know this must be extremely distressing, but your wife should not do anything hasty.

 

I agree entirely about the constructive dismissal - less than 3% of cases win, primarily because the burden of proof lies entirely on the employee in such cases. You would need strong legal opinion on bringing such a case, and not even lawyers would bring such a claim lightly - no matter how dire the circumstances it is very hard to prove that she didn't do what she was accused of, and that is what she will have to do.

 

However, you should remember that the legal requirement is that the employer must have "reasonable belief of guilt" - not reason to suspect something is true. It may seem a fine distinction, but it is a crucial one. I may suspect somebody did something, but that is not the same thing as having a reasonable belief that they did. For example - a purse is stolen. I know that only three people were in the room it was in during the period in question. I also know that Tom has a conviction for theft; Tony and Bill don't. As an employer I could actually sack all of them (believe it or not!) for the theft. Then I know I have the right person! But I cannot sack Tom on his own because I may, given the circumstances, "reasonably suspect" that it was him, but I do not have sufficient grounds for "reasonable belief" because it may have been Tony or Bill. On the other hand, if Tom was the only person who went in the room where the purse was, I can dismiss him even though I can't prove he took it. Do you see how fine the distinctions are?

 

To be honest I would advise getting a legal opinion now - and from an employment law specialist and not a general solicitor.

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I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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. It has been what can best be described as a witch hunt where the directors have made false allegations, lied, fabricated evidence and made it very hard to provide an defence.

 

You would need concrete proof of this, before even considering CD.

 

Suspension on full pay while investigating issues is generally considered best practise

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Thanks for the opinions folks.

 

Actually proving that some of their allegations were false and made up is not difficult as there are minutes of directors meetings where they agreed matters and then denied they had agreed them. They made allegations and then changed them to something else even more cras that a 6 year old could see it was fabricated. Trust me, there is little difficulty in proving that they have acted as absolute numpties in many aspects of this escapade. One reason we are considering action is because the directors are doctors and the situation has been handled so badly that my wife ended up hospitalised with stress induced heart attack. Believe it or not, in their first allegation, they did not even know what position and responsibilities my wife had.

 

Anyhow, we will be taking more legal advice and have no plans on taking any action until both the appeal and a greivance submission are out of the way and that will be a couple of months away because she has to rest and recouperate from her heart attack.

 

Again thanks for the comments.

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