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Settlement agreement and bullying


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Hi there

 

I had been bullied for 2 years at work and was off sick twice within this period with long term sickness due to stress and depression. In the end, with the help of a solicitor we negotiated a settlement agreement which included a payout and a reference. I left my last organisation in December 2013.

 

I have just found out that an ex-colleague of mine doing the same job as me in the same team working for the same manager as the one who bullied me (we were both managed by her as we were in her team) is leaving to go to a new job. This colleague of mine has had an unpleasant time since I was last physically in the office (July 2013 and I never returned). He to has been bullied with exactly the same issues as me, driip feed criticism, intimidating emails, etc, etc. He made a compliant to her line manager (the director) and she denied it when confronted.

 

It frustrates me that she is still getting away with the same behaviours, especially when her manager has known all along that she did the same to me and had to agree the settlement agreement.

 

My question is, whilst i know that I am legally bound not to discuss the settlement agreement that i made with them, am I able to act as a witness for him to state that she bullied me, without compromising my agreement? Does the settlement agreement restrict me from stating that she also bullied me if he should wish to make a complaint.

 

Your advice would be much appreciated, as whilst my ex-colleague has gotten away with it, I feel that this woman will continue to make people ill and stressed unless she is challenged over her behaviours.

 

Many thanks in advance!

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I am not sure it will help her case if you do. She needs to show what has happened in her own case. Your "help" could take the case away from that main point; I'd leave it myself but offer moral support backstage if you can.

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Unless it's a poorly worded settlement you got your leaving the employer to pursue you directly and legally by getting involved by breaching the agreement you signed, forget what you signed it for, gagging agreements are what they say on the tin and often written into compromise agreements.Unless you know what yours says including the legal interpretation, your putting yourself at risk

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I suspect that any evidence you gave might be viewed as an ex-employee with a grudge. Wrong I know but I suspect it just wouldn't help. Certainly this happened to me when I blew the whistle on a bully. I wasn't taken seriously by the regulatory body although eventually she was sacked, but only after several others suffered.

 

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If it's a standard settlement agreement then I assume that there is a non derogatory or disparaging statements clause, and a confidentiality clause preventing you discussing the circumstances surrounding your termination?

 

If so, then you are prevented from acting as a "witness" in the circumstances which you describe. However, if the agreement contains a clause saying you will cooperate with internal/judicial/quasi judicial investigations, then if your employer calls upon you to give a statement, you may do so (but NOT if the employee themselves ask).

 

The only other exception would be disclosure "as required by law" - so if the employee ended up issuing Tribunal proceedings, they could subpoena you to give evidence and you could then discuss it as part of legal proceedings.

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In reality, outside of disclosing trade secrets (something like blueprints or a secret recipe), this kind of non-confidentiality/non-disclosure clause is very difficult for the employer to enforce. Damages can generally only be claimed where the employer has suffered identifiable economic loss as a result of your breach of the clause. It is difficult to see how that could be the case here.

 

It is not entirely risk-free, but if I was in your position I would go ahead and contact this person.

 

If this person ends up bringing an employment tribunal claim, you can be used as a witness through this person's solicitors obtaining a witness order. This is quite easy to get. It is an order issued by the Employment Tribunal legally compelling you to attend the Tribunal to give evidence, and would override any non-disclosure clause in your contract.

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