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advice please, False claims of bullying in the workplace

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Evening all, Im after some advice,

 

Last friday i was taken in to the office by my boss and suspended on pay. There were two claims made against me by the apprentice. One that i had hit him over the head with a first aid box and another that i had hit him round the face twice for no reason.

 

The first, hitting round the head with a first aid box, this was completely accidental, and rather than a hit id would of called it catching him with a box as i passed him, i apologised. Nothing more was said and i was surprised he moaned about that. The later, was rubbish, i hadn't hit him/ touched him whatsoever.

 

Iv got a few theories as to why he may have made up the later accusation, he'd been dragged into the office twice already that week, his college tutor had been in and dragged his dad in for his poor attitude at work.He'd also told us that the boss had threaten to terminate his contract if he didnt buck his ideas up He does get quite a bit of banter thrown his way tbh by everyone even the boss, mainly for his poor attitude and stupidity in the job. Iv also been at the job a lot less than him( him 2 1/2 years apprentice, me 9 months fully qualified) and settled in considerably better than him, and looked upon alot better by the other employees.

 

My boss is notorious for not being able to manage a situation and passing the book, which is what he has done in this situation. rather than drag me in the office and have a word with me/ asked me about the story he has gone straight to our HR department and asked them what to do. Obvs as soon as he has mentioned hitting to them, understandable they have said suspend pending investigation.

 

I got a letter today outline my companys zero tolerance to bullying (there zero policy literally covered every possible aspect) and that i was under investigation for:

"Striking an employee"

"Gross Misconduct"

"Bullying in the workplace"

I have a meeting next tuesday with my manager also attended by the HR Manager. Im really after some advice on which way to go about the situation regarding the fact that i consider his main accusation a lie. Iv spoke to the lads in the workshop who have all said theyll support me should it come to it and witness that they have never seen any violence in the workplace. Iv worked there 9months+ and on a full contract passing my 6 month probation periord. Iv never been in any othe trouble there and worked the most overtime out of everyone there over a 6 month period. I feel personnally im a valued member of the team.

The lad is only 18 and very immature, personally i believe he is trying to take some pressure off himself and put it on to me, with the recent whispers of contract losses in the pipeline.

 

Im now worried about getting sacked but feel it would be ridiculous due to being innocent

Any help or advice gratefully received.

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How well are you viewed by your management normally? Any problems or negative relationships? I ask because I note that you have only 9 months service, and as you may well be aware you have considerably less protection than if you had completed a year.

 

That said, the suspension itself is a reasonable act, and would be normal procedure for an allegation of this nature. Understandably as you are innocent, you wish to be found as such and allowed to continue your employment. Do you have a Union? You will be entitled to have either a colleague or Union rep present at any disciplinary hearing, so I suggest that you exercise this right. If the meeting next week is only a preliminary investigatory hearing then you do not have the right to be accompanied, but you should still make copious notes and use every opportunity to defend your position. You should strenuously deny the allegation, offer to provide witnesses either of the incident with the first aid box, or to your character in general at the earliest opportunity.

 

Beyond a robust denial and expression of utter bewilderment at the allegations, there is little that you can do, and I sincerely hope that the employer is sensible enough to listen and act with common sense, as I fear that without the requisite length of service (and the right to take action for unfair dismissal that goes with it), they may err on the side of caution and decide to give in to pressure from the apprentice and his father!

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No i get on great with the management, tbh i was disappointed when he took it to this level rather than speak to me first. there is a union in which i had got a form to join only 2 weeks ago (with the rumors of contract losses coming up) but hadnt got round to doing it yet. I was considering asking my foreman to accompany me as i get on well with him and know that he would stick up for how important I'm am to the workplace. Another concern i have is the fact that the company has recently put me through my hgv and coach licences in which i had to sign a form saying i would pay back the full ammount if i left £3000. There was no mention of if i was dismissed

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Hi, I'm really sorry to hear about your situation. Has your accuser also been suspended? This would only be fair given that you deny the allegations.

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I actually think that suspension here could be a positive sign - they could have just sacked you on the spot, as you can't claim unfair dismissal. I would hope that the suspension shows a genuine wish on the part of the company to fairly investigate.

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It is good that the firm hasn't just sacked the OP, although by doing so, although unfair dismissal wouldn't be an option, they may leave themselves open to claims of stress/defamation depending on the circumstances.

 

My concern is that the only the OP has been suspended, despite his denial of the accusations. For suspension to be neutral, if suspension was the chosen course of action then both parties should have been suspended until conclusion of the investigation. Where a suspension takes place, some office gossip is inevitable, and with the accuser still being there, there may be a tendency for people to be led to believe that 'there must be something' to the allegations. This is a concern I would advise the OP to put in writing.

 

I would also advise that as part of the investigation the OP obtains a highly detailed description of exactly what he is being accused of, including times, dates, etc. If the accuser is lying it is probable he will trip himself up in this repsect, the OP may be able to demonstrate he was elsewhere at the time, or witnesses or any cctv in the office may prove the OP's innocence. Mention any conduct of the accuser susbsequent to the events complained of, e.g. if the accuser behaved in a friendly way after the times where the accusations were alleged to have taken place. It is important for the manager to take a hands on role in this too and not disappear into the background, whatever the outcome part of the process must be to manage relationships going forward. It is very important for the manager to be honest here and not just go with whatever way he thinks the outcome of the disciplinary is likely to go. Also, the OP should mention in writing the concerns expressed in his original post about the accuser's possible motivations for making these accusations. If this investigation is done fairly, and in a skilled fashion, it should not be difficult to establish what happened, but it is important for the OP to take control of the process to give him every opportunity to defend himself. Of course, the investigation should take place quickly and not drag on unneccesarily, particularly where suspension is involved.

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Thanks for the replies...

 

Hi, I'm really sorry to hear about your situation. Has your accuser also been suspended? This would only be fair given that you deny the allegations.

 

Thanks, no he hasn't been suspended, I did say at the time i got suspended that it was rubbish & i also said what if i wanted to say he had hit me would it be dealt with the same way, to which i got a no because my claims were on the back of his and if i wanted to make claims against him i would have to do it in my interview

 

 

It is good that the firm hasn't just sacked the OP, although by doing so, although unfair dismissal wouldn't be an option, they may leave themselves open to claims of stress/defamation depending on the circumstances.

 

My concern is that the only the OP has been suspended, despite his denial of the accusations. For suspension to be neutral, if suspension was the chosen course of action then both parties should have been suspended until conclusion of the investigation. Where a suspension takes place, some office gossip is inevitable, and with the accuser still being there, there may be a tendency for people to be led to believe that 'there must be something' to the allegations. This is a concern I would advise the OP to put in writing.

 

I would also advise that as part of the investigation the OP obtains a highly detailed description of exactly what he is being accused of, including times, dates, etc. If the accuser is lying it is probable he will trip himself up in this repsect, the OP may be able to demonstrate he was elsewhere at the time, or witnesses or any cctv in the office may prove the OP's innocence. Mention any conduct of the accuser susbsequent to the events complained of, e.g. if the accuser behaved in a friendly way after the times where the accusations were alleged to have taken place. It is important for the manager to take a hands on role in this too and not disappear into the background, whatever the outcome part of the process must be to manage relationships going forward. It is very important for the manager to be honest here and not just go with whatever way he thinks the outcome of the disciplinary is likely to go. Also, the OP should mention in writing the concerns expressed in his original post about the accuser's possible motivations for making these accusations. If this investigation is done fairly, and in a skilled fashion, it should not be difficult to establish what happened, but it is important for the OP to take control of the process to give him every opportunity to defend himself. Of course, the investigation should take place quickly and not drag on unnecessarily, particularly where suspension is involved.

 

So should the other person have been suspended to make the investigation fair? I shall be asking for detailed times and dates but feel it will be quite hard to prove i was somewhere else as if it was on the days leading to when i was suspended i spent all my time in the workshop as i was on one particular job lasting 18hours. My main concern is that my manager will go completley by the book and any sort of friendship that was there will be non-existent on his part.

With me working thee for less than 1 year do they have to prove that i have done something wrong?

Also would it benefit me if i did take can fellow employee into the interview with me, presuming i cant join a union after an event has happened to help me in this investigation

 

 

Thanks for the responses

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No the other person would not need to have been suspended, they made the accusation against you so the company would have probably felt that there was no need They dont have to prove anything as they can sack you at any time with the correct notice. However should you be able to show that the accusations are untrue,malicious they would really have no need to sack you.


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OK thanks, I received another letter today confirming my investigation meeting for next week. In the letter it says:

 

"Please note that should these allegations be proven, disciplinary action taken may result in you being dismissed with or without notice"

 

With the word "proven" being in the sentence is that something i can use to my advantage. I cant see anyway in which he can prove something that i haven't done, No witnesses, no marks on himself, no previous reports of violence towards myself.

 

Thanks in advance

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"Proven" only means on the balance of probabilities - ie a 51% belief or higher. It doesn't need to be proved to the same level as a criminal court. It's based on their reasonable belief of your guilt, or not!

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"Proven" only means on the balance of probabilities - ie a 51% belief or higher. It doesn't need to be proved to the same level as a criminal court. It's based on their reasonable belief of your guilt, or not!

 

I thought that may be the case, thank you...

 

Not feeling to confident after the reading i have done, guess il have to wait untill next week now,and make sure i have plenty of notes written done

 

Thanks

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Just to bring this up to date, I was sacked yesterday at the meeting

 

This was my first meeting and didn't expect any sort of disciplinary that day.

There were two complaints made by the apprentice about me, one that i had hit him over the head with the first aid box in the morning. The other that i had stood in front of him in the afternoon when he was walking past and slapped him twice across the face. I explained how the first incident had happened but in a different context and that the second incident was absoulte bo****ks.

First thing they said went against me was i had brought no written statement to the interview? I had no idea i had to take a written statement and dont really see what difference it would have made seeing as somebody there wrote down everything that was said...

second they said i brought no evidence to the table to make them believe that i hadn't done what was accused. How is this possible, I'm not 100% sure myself why he accused me of what i apparently did... ( i listed my personal reasons in the first post and expressed these in the interview) other than these i don't know why he has said what he has said.

The final thing that annoyed me was that in his statement he states that two other employees were present at both incidences, when i questioned if they had been asked to give a statement the woman overseeing the interview said that because of the nature of the incident they thought it was best to be discrete and not involve other employees, to which i responded everyone knows i have been suspended, to which my boss interrupted me and said that he knew the other two employees would unite with me so they were not going to waste there time asking them.

 

I can apparently appeal on Friday to which i intend to. I Spoke to my union rep ( i joined the union after this incident so could not be represented) who said i should appeal along the lines of the company has not composed a correct and thorough investigation. The other thing they did was pay me one weeks notice. As they have terminated my contract for gross mis-conduct i didn't think they would pay me a weeks notice.

 

Any tips on what to include or what route to go down in my appeal letter would be appreciated

 

Many thanks

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Sorry to hear what happened, although not totally surprised given the approach your employer has taken.

 

Its important to put everything in writing to your employer from now on. Remember, you're dealing with people who are lying or at best obscuring the truth. For the appeal you need to put them in a position where it is going to make it difficult or embarassing to continue with the approach they're taking. Firstly, they were wrong to suspend only you, no doubt about it. You have accused a colleague of making malicious allegations against you, which if he has done this, would be gross misconduct. While you've been suspended, he has been allowed to remain in the workplace and may have been able to prejudice the investigation.

 

It is not for you to provide evidence that you haven't done what you are accused of, that would be to prove a negative, which is impossible. That is not the way these things work. Rather the accuser needs to give a convincing description of what happened - dates, exactly what you did, any witnesses, any marks or injuries he suffered. You can then respond with where you were at the time - witnesses, cctv, or possibly evidence that you were logged onto your pc could provide supporting evidence. At the moment all that has happened is that an unsubstantiated allegation has been made against you - you have no case to answer. Otherwise, everyone could go around flinging allegations without any proof.

 

Your manager has said at the meeting that there are two witnesses who will support you, and has refused to take statements from them - this is outrageous!

 

Prior to the appeal, I would state in writing that you want a full and detailed account of exactly what you are being accused of, and that you want to call the two colleagues as witnesses. It might be worth approaching them to ask for statements which you can send to the people hearing the appeal. State also that you were dis-satisfied that the company didn't take witness statements from these people as part of the initial hearing. Take notes at the appeal, and state strongly during the meeting if there is anything said that you disagree with and make sure that your objections are noted by the employer. If there is something you want investigated that hasn't been looked at bring it up and ask why. Don't be afraid to adjourn the meeting if you are being bullied or if the employer is not being objective.

 

This apprentice has made a false allegation against you, which is a criminal offence. You should advise the employer that you are considering contacting the police and/or his college about his behaviour.

 

I can't advise strongly enough that you go into this fighting. This is your best chance to have the decision overturned, it will be much harder to do anything should the appeal go against you. Your employer has taken your colleague's accusations very seriously, but seems to be paying no attention to your counter-allegations. Given the nature of the allegations against you and the way the investigation is being handled, you could speak to a lawyer about getting an injunction to prevent the employer from sacking you. You can also consider an action for defamation against the colleague who is accusing you.

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Hello there.

 

Defamation was discussed on another thread yesterday. It was agreed that it is an expensive process, I quoted a figure of £10k I believe I've seen.

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Yes, I posted on that thread to. No, I actually disagreed that the process is necessarily expensive. It can be, but letting the employer know that defamtion action is being considered won't cost anything. The existence of conditional fee agreements which can reduce costs were also mentioned in that thread.

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IMO it is very unlikly that a that a lawyer would consider a cfa for a defamation case against joe public as the chances of winning may be quite good but the chances of getting a substantial payment are a lot less likley and they work on a percentage.


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It depends on the assets of the person involved, a lawyer would be able to advise on the chances of recoverability. However, the threat of a defamation lawsuit, or a letter from a lawyer advising that the OP considers a statement defamatory and wants an apology, may be sufficient to force a retraction. It is important to leave nothing off the table at this stage.

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Sorry to hear what happened, although not totally surprised given the approach your employer has taken.

 

Its important to put everything in writing to your employer from now on. Remember, you're dealing with people who are lying or at best obscuring the truth. For the appeal you need to put them in a position where it is going to make it difficult or embarassing to continue with the approach they're taking. Firstly, they were wrong to suspend only you, no doubt about it. You have accused a colleague of making malicious allegations against you, which if he has done this, would be gross misconduct. While you've been suspended, he has been allowed to remain in the workplace and may have been able to prejudice the investigation.

 

It is not for you to provide evidence that you haven't done what you are accused of, that would be to prove a negative, which is impossible. That is not the way these things work. Rather the accuser needs to give a convincing description of what happened - dates, exactly what you did, any witnesses, any marks or injuries he suffered. You can then respond with where you were at the time - witnesses, cctv, or possibly evidence that you were logged onto your pc could provide supporting evidence. At the moment all that has happened is that an unsubstantiated allegation has been made against you - you have no case to answer. Otherwise, everyone could go around flinging allegations without any proof.

 

Your manager has said at the meeting that there are two witnesses who will support you, and has refused to take statements from them - this is outrageous!

 

Prior to the appeal, I would state in writing that you want a full and detailed account of exactly what you are being accused of, and that you want to call the two colleagues as witnesses. It might be worth approaching them to ask for statements which you can send to the people hearing the appeal. State also that you were dis-satisfied that the company didn't take witness statements from these people as part of the initial hearing. Take notes at the appeal, and state strongly during the meeting if there is anything said that you disagree with and make sure that your objections are noted by the employer. If there is something you want investigated that hasn't been looked at bring it up and ask why. Don't be afraid to adjourn the meeting if you are being bullied or if the employer is not being objective.

 

This apprentice has made a false allegation against you, which is a criminal offence. You should advise the employer that you are considering contacting the police and/or his college about his behaviour.

 

I can't advise strongly enough that you go into this fighting. This is your best chance to have the decision overturned, it will be much harder to do anything should the appeal go against you. Your employer has taken your colleague's accusations very seriously, but seems to be paying no attention to your counter-allegations. Given the nature of the allegations against you and the way the investigation is being handled, you could speak to a lawyer about getting an injunction to prevent the employer from sacking you. You can also consider an action for defamation against the colleague who is accusing you.

 

Thats a great reply thanks... Not to over complicate things here but i spoke to a friend yesterday that works with the accusers dad. Turns out the accuser (george) has been making a regular occurrence of telling his dad iv done things to him which are complete and utter rubbish. I was gob smacked at the things he was saying he had heard i had done to george. I also found out my boss i recieving some sort of back hander shall we say to put our overflow work in the direction of georges dad who is a manager at a family run business. It sounds quite complicated but the way i have now read it is basically it was in my bosses intrerest to get rid of me so that he could keep on getting his little back hander. I cant use any of this in the appeal but its good to know. If i see my boss alone i might just have a whisper in his ear to let him know i know... In terms of the appeal, iv today found a new job and its actually a better job. I want to appeal as i feel iv been treated like crap and esp after i found out what i did yesterday. On my account is there any advantage to be gained from appealing?

 

Thanks in advance

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It's probably pointless threatening the employer with defamation. They're unlikely to be vicariously liable for the employees statement here as they simply instigated the disciplinary process in good faith having received a complaint. There's no legal grounds for defamation.

 

I suppose you could bring an action against the employee, but they wouldn't have the money to meet any judgment...

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Re defamation, I was advising to threaten the employee with a defamation action. This could be done for a nominal amount, in the way the Lord McAlpine is approaching some users of Twitter, the important thing is the retraction more then the money. But the mere threat of a defamation suit may be enough for a retraction to be offered. For the employer, it depends how they have approached the grievance. If they have done so in bad faith (and this disciplinary has been conducted in bad faith), and they have passed on any false accusations to third parties, including other members of staff, then this is potentially defamatory. For example, if the manager says to HR 'X has accused OP of assault' and an investigation is launched, this is not defamatory on the manager's part. But if the manager says to HR 'OP assaulted X' then this is potentially defamatory. One could also level an accusation of slander against the employer due to their suspending only the OP and not the other party prior to the investigation, this conduct has not been neutral.

 

But circumstances have changed due to the new job. I would advise that its probably not worth appealing, it sounds as if there are underlying reasons for this investigation reaching the conclusion it has, its just a pity the HR people involved weren't robust enough to ensure a fair process. What you could do is write to the manager's boss, or head of the office. In the letter you could state your dis-satisfaction with the investigation, mention the fact that you are innocent, and say that you don't have faith in the appeal to be impartial. You could say in the letter that as you can't be comfortable that you will be adequately protected from false allegations you wish to dissociate yourself from the whole process and that as a result you have decided to take a new job. You could also mention what you heard from your friend about what the underlying reasons were for your manager's conduct, just be careful with this though as you wouldn't want to land your friend in trouble.

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Threats of defamation are just that threats, unless the person threatening is well known or rich anyone receiving such a threat is likely to just ignore it. If they are not going to apologise anyway they are not going to when threatened with a defamation case IMO. But that is just my opinion and at the end of the day everyone must make their own decisions.


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Ignoring a court claim is not a good idea, and I wouldn't advise anyone to do this. They could end up with a default judgement against them.

 

If someone has made a false allegation and they refuse to apologise for it, this will likely count against them should the matter go to court. I know if I'd defamed someone and they threatened to sue me, I'd apologise rather than go through a legal process. It wouldn't matter whether the person was rich and famous or not.

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You are only likely to get compensation for defamation if (a) it affects your livelihood, or (b) was published in the public domain. It is likely to be ruled (as with disability claims) that you should have taken your case to the Employment Tribunal (if you did, you could then call your two witnesses). The sort of people who win money for loss of livelihood due to defamation are people like Posh & Becks who sued someone who dissed them over one of their boutiques in France.

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P, not sure where your information is coming from, but its wrong. Defamation does not come under the jurisdiction of the ET. Interesting as Posh & Becks and their boutiques may be, anyone can have a reputation, and if that reputation is damaged they have a right to defend it. Clearly any award made will depend on the profile of the person and the audience to whom the comments were made, but to say damages are only recoverable when information is placed in the public domain is plain wrong. Communicating information to a third party is sufficient.

 

This is similar to a debate we had a couple of weeks back about whether an OP should claim for discrimination. I'd say again that the threat of legal action may be enough to prompt some action, here the issue would be more about obtaining a retraction/apology than getting damages. I believe most people, knowing they have made a false statement and being threatened with court action will, given the chance to apologise and bring an end to the matter, do so.

 

I fear this is moving off-thread, the OP now has a new job and is concerned more about whether to appeal or not against the cooked up disciplinary he faced. I'm happy to continue the discussion, but if we do so perhaps it should be on another thread.

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An apology doesn't remedy the original defamatory statement, though. If that's all youre after, threatening such claims with no legal basis would be futile.

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