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Hello,

 

Am hoping that some of you may be able to give me some advice on behalf of my husband, will try to keep it brief and to the point:-

 

My husband has worked for the same large retailer as me for the last two years as a delivery driver, has never been late, never been off sick/absent , and has never been in trouble of any kind (customer complaints etc) Recently, following a weeks annual leave, he returned to find that his locker had been emptied of all personal effects, payslips, cash, etc. and that somebody else's personal items were in there. He went to see HR to find out what was going on and, having been made to wait a day or two, finally the person responsible was in work and he went to speak to her. He was (IMO) understandably a bit upset and was confronted with that she thought it was available (never consulted the file to see which locker was issued to who etc. and if they'd left) she'd chucked his stuff and said that there was a total of 14p which she'd put in the charity box but "she'd give it to him if he was that upset about it" he reckons there was a few quid in there, but that's not the issue.

 

Anyway, last week he was told to attend an investigatory meeting today at 9am, seemingly this lady has raised a grievance against him saying that he intimidated her, was between her and the door, and kept his hand on the door. She also has a witness (a crony of hers) who walked in halfway who backs her up saying that his 'body language' was threatening.

 

He says he starting talking to her in the corridor, she walked past him into the office mid conversation and he naturally (conversation not over) followed her. It's a long narrow office, walkway only large enough for one person at a time so, obviously having followed her in, he would be between her and the door without any engineering at all. She never once said she wanted to get past, said 'excuse me' or intimated in anyway that she wished to leave the office and that he was blocking her way. He didn't swear at her, no finger jabbing, fist waving, invasion of her space, nothing and, as he says, if he was holding the door closed then how did her friend get through it halfway through the conversation? Their whole complaint is that his body language was threatening.

 

He's called a while ago to say that following two hours in an investigation meeting, they have decided that 'due to the seriousness of the allegation' it is going to a disciplinary. I am really upset about this as I'm currently on Maternity leave and I can't believe that he's having his reputation wrecked basically. He's a good man who served in the Armed Forces for 7 years and left with an exemplary record only to have someone sling mud for nothing more than not liking how he was standing. He has not been suspended and (I think) for his own sake if nothing else, he should have been.

 

If any of you could give us some advice it would be appreciated.

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Hi,

 

OK, sounds a little heavy handed approach from the employer. The fact the has not been suspended means that the punishment they are potentially thinking of delivering is relatively minor, so a warning etc. What was the outcome of the grievance? I guess that they found in her favor and therefore that's the reason for disciplinary action. It seems rather strange that she would immediately raise a grievance, as this would be a step after a polite informal chat that she would have before a grievance. A grievance is something you file after the employer has not done anything about a particular issue even though you have raised it.

 

Anyway. Is you husband part of USDAW? The shop workers union, they would give advice and attend the hearing. Retailers are normally really bad at this sort of thing. When he goes into the investigatory interview, they will present the evidence, now this needs to be the written complaint, and the notes from the grievance that they had with her, and your notes too. You are allowed copies of all these so you know what she has said about you and her claims. Also why the company feels this is a disciplinary thing too.

 

If they don't supply this, then simply say "I have a right to see the evidence against me so I may prepare an adequate defence" if they still do not show you the evidence, let them carry on the meeting, noting your objection to not seeing the notes, and let them come to a decision. This will then need to be appealed under the grounds of no evidence was presented and you feel that a fair process has not been followed.

I am not a legal professional or adviser, I am however a Law Student and very well versed areas of Employment Law. Anything I write here is purely from my own experiences! If I help, then click the star to add to my reputation :)

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Hi,

 

Thanks for taking the time to reply. He attended the investigation meeting this morning and it's been referred to a full blown disciplinary, no attempt was made to discuss the 'issue' with him prior to going straight to grievance. He has seen the witness statements supplied by the person directly concerned and her 'witness'. The person who raised the grievance contends that he had his hand on the door, therefore she felt he was preventing her from leaving the room, that she made no attempt to do so seems neither here nor there. Surely he could only prevent her leaving if she attempted to do so, she was at one end of the office and he the other. Her witness contends that his body language was intimidating, neither say that he said anything untoward or did anything untoward.

 

He is represented by USDAW and had a rep with him this morning, I just do not trust this company and am worried especially as I'm only on SMP at present, they bring the term 'cronyism' into ill repute. Am also concerned that he hasn't been suspended as what is to stop her adding to her grievance? as he's going to constantly run into her in corridors etc.

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Hi

 

I wonder if this is a certain persons way of trying to coverup for them failing to follow company policy on "allocation of lockers" to employees and thrown that employees property out. As this was the companies mistake the employee can claim against the company for the property discarded in error by said person bringing these allegations.

 

I would start by getting him to place a grievance in against this person allocating your locker to another employee allocated to you by the company without consultation and throwing your personal property in the bin without checking the allocated lockers documents.

 

You also require the following documents - (Not what in a staff/employee handbook as this may be a shortened version, also when you get document check the date they were approved and importantly the next review date as some companies let this lapse for some years and you can use it against them):

 

1. Discilpinary & Grievance Policy and Procedure. (You want both)

2. Company Locker Allocation Policy & Procedure. (You want both)

3. Copies of all evidence to be used at Disciplinary including witness statements.

 

Now only if you are able to without breaking any company rules try and take photographic evidence of the corridior where conversation started preferably with a person in corridor (this will help explain the difficulty getting past due to it being narrow) and if possible the room with someone standing to explain again the difficulty due to it being narrow. (Now I would suggest if this is an issue speak to your rep and explain the issue on this being narrow and photographic evidence would help your case or can you request at the Disciplinary that the hearing visits the area of the incident so they can see how narrow it is).

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The fact that it has gone to a disciplinary isn't a major thing, the disciplinary is for your husband to present his defence to the allegations.

 

If she was intimidated, why didn't she say so? If she was intimidated why didn't she call for help from this person that was passing by? Has your husband ever shown intimidating behaviour before to her, if not then what gave her the impression that he was being intimidating?

 

If she is in HR then she'll know how to react to intimidating employees, has she raised issues before about employees seeming intimidating? If she is in HR then why did she allow the conversation to be held with an open door? Why didn't she ask him to come in and sit down?

I am not a legal professional or adviser, I am however a Law Student and very well versed areas of Employment Law. Anything I write here is purely from my own experiences! If I help, then click the star to add to my reputation :)

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Hi Ibruk & Stu,

 

Thanks for your time. When this incident occurred he'd never met her before, as he predominantly spends most of his time driving he doesn't actually meet many colleagues in-store. So no axe to grind with her whatsoever.

 

She is new to her position in HR, to the best of my knowledge she isn't an 'HR person' merely elevated from the shopfloor (as a lot of them are) to take on admin duties etc. Fairly 'A' typical of the type, she adopts all the authoritative attitude (condescending, patronising etc) without having any idea of how to deal with people. She never invited him to take a seat, never said to him that she found his body language intimidating (I doubt she's an expert on that either) never made any attempt to exit the office. So she is basically clueless as to whether he was looking to prevent her leaving.

 

For his part, he says he followed her into the office and just stood inside the door whilst talking to her, with his hand on it. To me, that's a completely normal posture to adopt when in a room with little space to walk about, certainly her friend had no trouble getting through the door midway through their conversation and doesn't report one. She backs her friend up about the body language though!

 

I guess I'm just amazed that it's come to this, I have never heard of anyone being taken to disciplinary never having said anything wrong or actually done anything wrong, they might as well just say they didn't like his face.

 

I know he can be abrupt and seem quite stern, particularly when spoken down to but, intimidating to a woman? Never. He's served in some sensitive areas during his time in the army as a junior NCO and if there's one thing he does know it's how to

conduct himself with discipline.

 

The union rep didn't see this coming either and, being the first time we've called on the union, they're an untried quantity for us so not sure how helpful they can be. I've often heard it said that they're in the company's pocket.

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All seems very strange! I have dealt with USDAW before (as the employer) they generally seem good at what they do - but it very much depends on the person you get.

 

A lot of my questions above are still valid and he should ask them in his disciplinary. I'm sure that even though she is from the shop floor - working within HR requires certain skills, that if she has she hasn't applied and if she doesn't then why is she doing that job?

I am not a legal professional or adviser, I am however a Law Student and very well versed areas of Employment Law. Anything I write here is purely from my own experiences! If I help, then click the star to add to my reputation :)

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I will definitely ensure that the questions you have raised are asked when his disciplinary meeting is called, we intend on sending him well prepared, thank you. Knowing the store, I doubt she's had much training, their selection criteria is based more on whether a person's face fits.

 

From my personal point of view, she's taken umbrage that he wasn't accepting of her "well it's done now, that's all there is to it" attitude to having gone through his locker and chucking his personal stuff, without even a word of apology. She may be HR but is still only the same grade as any other colleague, though some are keen to forget that. She could have, at any time, picked up an internal phone and asked for someone but she didn't and now they're just rallying round each other. They all hang out together in and out of work, management, HR, and associate movers and shakers.

 

Forgot to add that they flagged up that she's also pregnant (yes, and?) So the poor dear must have been doubly in fear for her life [sarcasm intended]

Edited by NeptunesKiss
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yeah retail is a very incestuous sector in some companies. I would also point out that what was the point of having a locker if HR will go through and throw your stuff out as and when they like. It certainly appears that's what they have done.

 

It really appears a massive over reaction by everybody here, HR and management. Your husband wanted an answer to a question, he was not happy with the one he received and pushed for an explanation. All of your husbands actions appear to be reasonable responses to what has happened to him.

I am not a legal professional or adviser, I am however a Law Student and very well versed areas of Employment Law. Anything I write here is purely from my own experiences! If I help, then click the star to add to my reputation :)

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I think so, this is a store in which over 200 people work, just how isolated can anyone feel in the middle of the day? I wonder sometimes if it's a personal thing as they've chanced their arm with me a few times (I had an accident at work a couple of years ago, and was wheelchair bound for 6 months as a result) and they came off the worse for wear. I've often felt that daggers were drawn after that and only stayed put for the sake of paying the rent and feeding the kids!

 

The system works beautifully when dealing with Uni kids who (for the most part) won't stand up for themselves, they just don't like having to deal with reasonably informed adults. He's determined to find another job now come what may, as far as he's concerned mud sticks and they've basically trashed his reputation, which is the thing he can't bear.

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Yeah i absolutely agree, when you start asking questions of them, especially those higher up they just cannot come up with answers to why things have been done or especially when they screw things up there will never be an apology or any form of admittance of doing things wrong.

 

It very much is when you do things wrong, then you are punished as harshly as they can. But when they make a mistake its just excuses, like "we're busy" or "we didn't know". and you certainly get the feeling of a them and us mentality! I was a store manager for a large retailer, and i know exactly how it all works!

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I am not a legal professional or adviser, I am however a Law Student and very well versed areas of Employment Law. Anything I write here is purely from my own experiences! If I help, then click the star to add to my reputation :)

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