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Constructive Dismissal ? Wrongfully Disciplined at Work


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Hello All,

 

I am really looking to make sense of all of this so constructive and factual feedback is what i would value...

 

I work at a construction company as a site based manager and have been there just over 6 years to date. Back in April `11 i was suspended and subjected to an investigation and disciplinary hearing over an incident that happened on my site at the time.

 

A member of the senior management team, the head of the department that i was part of, had become exceptionally attentive towards a female member of staff that was part of another department. As time went on it was clear that their main priority whilst at work was to be with one and other. He would follow her to the four corners of the region without any credible need just to be in the same room as her and for her, the attention from a very influential senior manager that had the ear of the Directors could do wonders for the career advancement she clearly desired.

 

for the staff that looked on, this was mildly amusing at first. To see a middle aged man chase a woman that was 10 years his junior when she had suggested prior, that men 10 years her junior where her preference, was quite pathetic. He had an infatuation, and she a career need for his influence.

 

Unfortunately as the months rolled by with the whole relationship escalating, results started to slip to a very noticeable low. Little or no attention was being paid by either party to their staff or to the business. He had now left his wife, purchased a yellow Porsche, lost 3 stone in weight and started having tattoos! She had assumed an unbelievable amount of self importance with the new found `power` that was made available to her.

 

Although i had got on and won the respect of the senior manager since joining the company, i had seen her for exactly what she was, and in return she had completely seen this. At best there was a little frost in the room that we would be in, no chat but no altercations.

 

Since joining the company i had always been selected to do the more complex, lager projects and welcomed the challenge and recognition of this. On several occasions i had been removed from smaller projects and sent to set up and manage the flagship ones as they came on line, being replaced by an `equal` to complete the smaller project i had started. This was then the case back in April `11 and i was given one of our management trainees on a 6 month placement to shadow myself and learn some of the site based sides to our business. She arrived one morning and confessed to me that the a fore mentioned woman was going to move her early and that i was not under any circumstances to be told! Personally, it made no difference to me having a trainee or not, but the underhand manor with which the trainee was being removed and the willful wrong doing and damage to the region centered around this woman, now did.

 

An hour later the woman arrived and the friction between the two of us was very clear. All unspoken but very evident. Right on que the senior manager arrived after her and came into my office. I closed the door behind him and asked him the reason for the secrecy in moving a junior member of staff. He denied knowing anything about it. I then went on to state my opinion of the woman he was fascinated in in no uncertain terms stating that i could not be in a room with her and that i could see her for what she was. He became very red faced, quiet and played the whole thing down. He disappeared and was seen in the meeting room in deep conversation with the woman alone.

 

After about 15 minutes a member of staff came into my office and stated that the woman `would like to see you in the meeting room`. I completed what i was doing, dealt with other members of my team, as the request was repeated twice more, then proceeded into the meeting room where the the two of them were huddled together. They parted from their intimate positions and she stated `i believe you have a problem?` `Do you have something to tell me regarding your trainee?` was my response.

`I speak to people in order to the respect i have for them` was her condescending reply. This was infuriating to me and i responded `i can assure you that whatever respect you do not have for me i have significantly less for you....and do not speak to me in that tone !` With this i stood up and stated that i was not listening to anything else, returned to my office, gathered my things and left the site.

 

I returned home to diffuse a situation and remove myself from a potential flash of emotions, from either party. The following day (Saturday) i received a letter from the senior manager stating that he believed i had told a member of staff that i had resigned and that he wished for me to confirm this to him. This was not the case. I telephoned him at 7 pm of that evening to talk about the problem. He was slurring his words and appeared to be drunk (no big crime on a Saturday night) but was clearly not impartial. He stated hat he did not know what to do and would pass this over to HR. I stated that he should do so as he was not impartial and that he should step away from things.

 

I arrived for work on the Monday looking to address the matter at some point. My line manager arrived, immediately followed by the senior manager. They came into my office and sat down. The senior manager stated that the matter between me and the woman needed to be sorted and that i should return home until it was resolved. I was shocked and asked if this was a suspension to which he replied `yes`. I left site without question.

 

After about a week off work, i was called in to an investigation hearing at our head office lead by an office manager whom i had no dealings with prior, and the office manager from the regional office i worked out of, whom i knew quite well. He was a known acquaintance of the senior manager who was fully aware of the now `affair` who`s house the senior manager later went to live at whilst separated from his wife as mentioned earlier. How very impartial!. After about an hour, with various statements being read to me and my responses being noted, the first and impartial manager looked directly at me, took off his glasses and stated `i don't know what we are doing here.....i don't know what you are doing here...?. I stated in response looking directly at the second manager `you do don't you....you are fully aware of the missing piece of the jigsaw that makes sense of all of this are`nt you?` He colored up, looked down at the table and did not respond. The investigation hearing concluded and i returned home.

 

I was confident that there was no case to answer and that the whole thing would fizzle out. I was very conscious that results were poor, the industry as a whole was in recession and redundancy was in the air. I did not feel a `gloves off` battle was in the regions best interest and that as the relationship between the senior manager and the woman was common knowledge to all, this would amount to nothing. However, i received a letter stating that the matter was proceeding to a disciplinary under the `dignity at work policy` that the company had as i had verbally abused the woman in the meeting room and used threatening gestures (which later transpired to be a flat palm raised in a `stop` motion six feet away from her. I never shouted , swore or raised my voice to her. There was nothing to suggest otherwise in any statement from any party.

 

It is probably worth mentioning that the last two Christmas parties had ended in fights between members of staff. The first instance two women had to be separated, one of which was the newly promoted HR administrator with a managers PA, the second was two site based managers, one of which was hospitalized. Both of these situations were investigated, no suspensions took place and no disciplinaries took place. With this in mind, i felt i was being harshly treated.

 

After now being suspended a month , i was invited to a disciplinary hearing at head office with the standard correspondence stating that the outcome could be summery dismissal. On entering the building i came in contact with the regional Director who greeted me with a warm handshake and a smile. `Not seen you in a while` he stated with a beaming grin on his face. I rolled my eyes and asked `what is going on here, i have done nothing wrong`, to which he replied `go in there, keep calm and i will see you next week. You are the best at what you do and you are going nowhere!`. He shook my hand again saying `we have never had this conversation ` and walked away. Again, another person that was aware of why this had happened to me?

 

I sat in the disciplinary which was held by the first office manager (the impartial one) and another member of the senior team. In light of the conversation i had just had, it was farcical how serious they tried to make the matter. To their credit they asked me to tell them, taking all he time i needed, why i thought this had happened and the `missing piece` comment made in the investigation hearing. I told them my complete version of events, the affair and that i had got between `a dog and its bone` by speaking out. I was thanked for shearing this and asked to leave the room whilst they conferred. I returned 10 minutes later and was asked if i would accept a written warning and return to work the following week, with he condition that i apologize to the woman. I had been suspended for a month, the housing market was depressed so i grudgingly agreed to put the matter to bed, a decision that i regret to this day as my account of events had never been took into consideration.

 

I returned to work, offered my shallowest of apologies to the woman and then sat down to talk with my line manager, as the senior manager was mysteriously absent.I was informed that i was being removed off the flagship site and replaced by a manager on the same grade as me. No explanation was given as to why. Within 1 week on my new site i was in contact with the woman regarding a trainee on the site. The fact i had been taken off the flagship site did not mean that we would not come into contact with each other. I had to interact with her and many others as part of my role, so why remove me, what was the reason?

 

I was now on a much smaller project that did not challenge me, nor did it require a manager at my grade and salary. I felt pushed out of the way and any attempt to speak with my line manager about the whole incident was ignored or brushed aside as he was not about to question the senior managers decisions and actions. There was clear wrong doing but he was comfortable with this as long as it did not affect him personally.

 

The flagship site i had left took an immediate nose dive. It lacked drive, direction and had become an embarrassment to the region. The client had lost all confidence in our company and had expressed their disappointment at director level. Every single member of site staff had been transferred to the sinking ship, frantically trying to `put out fires` in response to the clients comments and disappointments. I was regularly contacted by members of this team and told about the chaos that the site has fallen into disarray, and how lucky i was not to be there. The manager that replaced me in the first instance was known for his untidy and quite chaotic approach. He had since complained of feeling unwell at work culminating in an ambulance being called to remove him from the sinking ship and to hospital, where he was treated for stress related complications. He remained off for several months with yet another manager of the same grade taking the helm, but with no improvements.

 

The site i was on had come to a satisfying end, with myself and other members of staff wondering if i would be sent back to the flagship site to try to turn things around. How embarrassing if the unfair treatment of myself had lead to the collapse of a prestigious site to the tune of several hundred thousands of pounds, not to mention the irreparable relationship between our company and our client. Instead i was left in limbo with no site to run and seemingly not allowed back onto the site that i was removed from that needed help the most. I visited maintenance issues that did not need my attention over the next 2 months, with days that i never left home as i had nowhere to go and was never asked of my whereabouts nor told to report to any site. Seemingly put out to graze.

 

I eventually took myself to another struggling site and struggling site manager and lent my assistance and support. When asked why i was there by my line manager i responded `where else do you want me to go?`It is worth mentioning that the manager on this site had gone through crushing bullying and victimization over the past 18 months by the senior manager and our line manager, in an attempt to `hound` him out of the business. He was signed off with `work related stress`, a broken man, but did eventually return to work. Another instance that was never referred to or addressed by the company, albeit common knowledge that he was being treated unfairly. That particular site yielded losses in excess of 1 million pounds.

 

By March 2012 the relationship between the senior manager and the woman had fell on rocky grounds. His behavior was erratic and he was quite an embarrassment to the region, exploding in temper to those around him or bursting into tears in management meetings. The woman had begun a relationship with another member of staff, more on her career level and not surprisingly 10 years younger than her! The senior manager, by his own admission, was now on anti depressants, had returned to his wife and the two of them were going to marriage guidance counselling. She is to this day unaware of the affair.

 

An announcement was made in late March 2012 that the senior manager was being sent on secondment to another region with immediate effect. He was going for 3 months, though this may be extended, but the door was always open for his return. As there are very few kept secrets in the region, it became evident that he was removed without return and had fought against dismissal. There were rumors of a letter sent to the company MD detailing his antics over the past 2 year prompting this action against him. I was told this in confidence by a member of staff that he kept in contact with, stating that he thought that i had sent the letter in response to the actions he manipulated against me during my disciplinary as i `never got over it`.

 

Earlier this year, another member of staff was going through a disciplinary for his alleged actions towards a female member of staff which was being conducted by the `friendly` office manager towards the senior manager. During the proceedings the member of staff complained that the office manager was aware of far worse offences within the business committed by the senior manager, and that he had kept quiet condoning the behavior. He requested that he was removed from the disciplinary as his opinion was not impartial. The member of staff then went on to detail the past antics of the senior manager and stated that he was being treated unfairly in comparison, as the business had been aware and tolerated far worse behavior than he was being accused of, and by a far more senior member of staff. The office manager was removed from the hearing, the complaint about the senior manager somehow got to him in his new region and he resigned with immediate effect!

 

Late 2012 i was visited by our director mentioned previously and asked to run a huge, high profile project for our region. He stated `the project you left fell apart and i`m not letting that happen again. I do not want any of the other site based managers running it`. This was an embarrassment to the line manager and the rest of the senior managers `in crowd` as against all odds, i remained in the region and he had been removed. They had backed the wrong horse!

 

The Director was replaced along with another senior manager, two decent and professional people. My warning has been removed from my record as it has expired. The woman is so attentive and sickly nice to me that she would probably sew me a button on my shirt if i asked her to! I was even invited to her wedding!

 

What i cannot get past is that despite my committed service to the business, i was allowed to be victimized, suspended and disciplined whilst the company knew that there was an ulterior motive as to why this was being done and the fact remains that they allowed it to happen.

 

Since July i have raised the matter with my new senior manager, who from the first word stated that he was aware of the problems i had been through. I have repeatedly requested that he sits down with me to discuss some sort of closure to the issue. I informed him that i am being treated for an ulcer that my doctor has stated to be stress related, that it affects my home and family life constantly going over the whole matter. I have stated that i have seen enough damage done to the region by peoples inappropriate actions and have no intentions in adding to this, and that i cannot turn to my line manager nor HR for support as they were both fully aware of the unfair way i was treated and fully condoned it.

 

I have stated that i have been close to submitting a grievance to the new regional director to force someone to talk to me about it, but would much prefer an unofficial approach.

 

For the last 3 months the senior manager has stated that this is to be addressed as it may lead to me deciding to exit the business adding that this was not what he wanted. I have repeatedly asked for a face to face discussion to assess how to bring closure to the problem, but he has requested that i put the whole thing in writing so he knows what we will be discussing? I am mindful of where that email will end up and don't see the point of it. He has already stated that he was aware of the past issue and we have briefly spoken of it too.

 

I have good days and bad ones. No part of my job causes me to loose any sleep or undue stress. Many people within the business who`s actions and inaction's contributed to my troubles have now gone, but i cannot get past the thought of another `ambush`, steered disciplinary and who knows what happening to me again without good reason.

 

I do seem to be treated with kid gloves most of the time. An extra days holiday - no problem, a strong say in the operational side of things perhaps above my station - always. I have no idea if the company would like me out or if i am a valued member of staff

 

Do i push to have closure to a 2 year old problem by means of a grievance? I am a union member who state they will accompany me though i do not take this option lightly as a member of management bringing in the union against the company will not sit well as you can imagine.

 

Do i try to bring closure to this alone. To date i have not been able to.

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A long and thought provoking case, but as I approached the end of the tale, I could not help but feel that there as been a realisation that you were wrongfully treated and that the employer is now making every effort to keep you happy and on board.

 

To that end, I see no reason whatsoever to stir up the past again. What purpose would it serve? If raising a grievance then the aim would be to put you back in the same position as you should have been, and it seems that to a greater or lesser extent this has already been done. Constructive Dismissal? For the same reason, I think not - whilst the mutual trust and confidence may have been severely damaged over an extended period of time, the employer would appear to have taken corrective action of their own volition. Did you receive any detriment to your status? Perhaps? Pay and benefits? Almost certainly not.

 

I can fully understand why you feel apprehensive about the past repeating itself, but do not feel that this is sufficient to act on, and may indeed mark you out again for the wrong reasons and damage any faith in you which has already been restored. I would just carry on doing the best job that you possibly can, and take a certain satisfaction in the fact that whilst others may have made fools of themselves, and caused you a good deal of anxiety in the process, that you have come out the other side relatively unscathed and with your head held high.

 

That is just my reading of the case, you understand :-)

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I read about half way though but it's too long with too much irrelevant opinion and emotion for me.

 

Can you give us *just the facts*, what outcome you are looking for, and any actual questions you have?

Never assume anyone on the internet is who they say they are. Only rely on advice from insured professionals you have paid for!

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If you are sure they are "steering" you towards more unfair treatment, then it could be worth lodging a grievance to show the history. However, most employers do not take kindly to this, so you might be better off building up your good relations with the senior people in your organisation. Although workplace afaairs can be a menace for other staff, as you describe, you need to be careful about victimising this woman as she could claim sex discrimination against you.

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Thank you Pusillanimous,

 

The New Senior Manager simply does not want to respond to anything i have raised regarding the past treatment of me, although he was fully aware of the situation which implies that is the way i`m perceived in the business `the one that fell out with the woman and was suspended for it`. I feel that if i had issues in the future that this would be used against me indirectly.

 

The whole do i or do i not re-open the whole thing is basically to clear my name of any wrong doing.

 

Would she really be able to claim sexual discrimination for me alleging she had an improper relationship with the senior manager?

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They will be looking at the bottom line. If you are an asset to your firm they will not be looking to find ways of letting you go. You need to keep your powder dry with this woman as they won't want the liability of a sexual harassment claim. Like it or not, she is free to have sex with whomever she wants. Avoid her and get on with our life.

 

What are you trying to clear your name of? Diddly.

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