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Management/HR perspective appreciated on non-disclosed termination with just cause

(29 Posts)
mamakoukla Wed 14-Aug-13 20:33:51

Hi! I have had a rough time of it and I am working at obtaining closure.

I worked at a reasonable sized company for ten years, good track record, respected for my knowledge and expertise, worked well with people and was trusted to help mentor and support more junior members. In the last 1.5 years I worked for a new and younger boss. It all started out with promises of what the job would be and descended into the most toxic work environment I have ever been in. I did not feel that the work environment and HR would support claims against a more senior ranking member of staff (notorious for closing ranks) and I truly feared for job loss. I tried to work with this person in many different ways. It was a mass of lies, smoke and mirrors.

I was fired (no prior disciplinary/warnings etc) from my position which ultimately was the only way things could go. This person clearly used me to access a skill set and a major project then dumped me when they had what they wanted. No reference letter; forbidden from approaching colleagues for reference letters. Since then it has come to light that a number of reports were made about me and that I was also terminated with just cause (was not told this/not in my termination letter). The reports led to a blacklisting from my future employment. The employer is aware that I am stating that I was bullied and harassed and, given my record with the company, I have requested the right to defend myself (I was offered a job by another section and this employer is a major local one) but they are refusing this on the basis that a decision was made. At no point did anybody seek my side.

Counsellors have since declared the relationship as abusive and listed terms such as projection, splitting, gaslighting, stonewalling, creation of a toxic environment. Lawyers have agreed with this (naturally based on my version and experience).

a. is it unreasonable to expect that I would have been given the opportunity to provide my version of events?
b. is it unreasonable to expect to be informed of what I was meant to have done?
c. is it acceptable practice on the part of the employer? They say it is.

I realise I am trying to condense a lot of information. I just cannot get my head around how this may be acceptable.

EBearhug Wed 14-Aug-13 22:43:56

As you say, you're condensing a lot of information, and I'm not entirely clear what's gone on, but have you been through a disciplinary/grievance process of any sort? From what you say, it sounds like you haven't been.

Also, just because you've been forbidden from approaching other colleagues for reference letters, that doesn't mean they won't do it, if you were to ask discreetly, and know they think favourably towards you. If we get a reference from HR, it's usually a very basic thing, "We confirm EBearhug worked here between 2009 and 2013 as a (job title)." I have other contacts if I want a more detailed reference

Are you in a union? If so, contact them first thing in the morning. Also consider the CAB and take a look at ACAS - http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1461 Although you may have already done some of that, if you've got lawyers involved.

a) No, I'd expect it.
b) No, I'd expect it.
c) Doesn't sound like it to me. And - they would say that, wouldn't they?

prh47bridge Wed 14-Aug-13 23:57:54

If you have been sacked without any form of disciplinary process they are taking a big risk. That is clearly a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice. Employers do not have to follow this code but if they fail to do and you win an action for unfair dismissal the damages you receive will be increased. Also if your contract contains a disciplinary procedure and they have not followed it they are in breach of contract.

What do you mean when you say you have been blacklisted? Do you mean your ex-employer is making sure you cannot get a similar role with another company?

prh47bridge Thu 15-Aug-13 00:01:37

Meant to say that you need to consult a lawyer who specialises in employment law and decide whether you want to take action against your ex-employer. You need to get on with it. Any claim must be lodged within 3 months of your dismissal.

mamakoukla Thu 15-Aug-13 00:46:17

There has been no grievance or disciplinary process whatsoever. No interview/investigation to gather any information from my side. Everything has been based upon the reports of my boss, and it would appear to be accepted without any questions raised.

My position was not covered by a union and it was contractual. I have been informally told that it one reason why the employer feels happy doing what it wants as there really is no workplace protection i.e. my position and other similar ones represent a vulnerable and relatively unprotected segment of the workplace and they can boss us around for fear of job loss. It is an effective threat.

In terms of approaching colleagues, some of these are contractual and therefore they feel a need to protect their jobs; I couldn't ask this of them and they would need to look for their own interests as well re. continued future employability there.

EBearhug - yes, they would say so but I am trying to be fair and this is why I am asking for outside perspective because maybe it is fair and acceptable. The employer has told me that it would never look fair from my position (even though they feel it was a proper and fair decision). I don't want to be blindfolded by my long involvement in this process which may bias my opinion and insight.

prh47bridge - blacklisted from future employment within the company. I do have anecdotal evidence that rumours have also been spread about me. Some of these are not incorrect but they are a reinterpretation of events which make me appear to be insubordinate when the reality is I was following my boss's orders. The boss is still on probation before their permanent role is secured.

I have been in contact with lawyers. There are a number of legal infringements as well, in addition to this. I don't want to enter a legal battle (off the record HR have informed somebody that they would make it expensive and nasty) but at my age I cannot afford this to happen to my career either. Basically the employer is under the impression they can do and say what they want. It has already damaged my career progress and possibly my reputation. If I do make that step though, I have top be beyond convinced of its worth - it will be a hard slog if it goes to court and it will be nasty. I know the characters involved and the reputation of the employer in court.

mamakoukla Thu 15-Aug-13 00:47:37

prh47bridge - blacklisting - a month before I was fired my boss informed me that I would not be doing a similar position in the future. It scared me as it was a very odd thing to tell somebody. How can my ex-boss feel the right to dictate my future?

mamakoukla Thu 15-Aug-13 00:48:29

The lawyers were sceptical at first and couldn't believe what I was describing. Apparently it's quite unique (in the shared history of the firm)

EBearhug Thu 15-Aug-13 00:51:13

Really, mamakoukla, none of this sounds at all right. You need expert external advice, and you need it fast - get on to it first thing tomorrow.

mamakoukla Thu 15-Aug-13 01:05:19

Thanks EBearhug. Deep down I know there are so many things which were not right. Being in a bad work relationship can shatter you as a person and I am fighting that; you lose confidence, belief, trust in yourself and your abilities, your insights, your ability to judge. This is why I am asking for opinion. I know if I start the process, there's no going back.

EBearhug Thu 15-Aug-13 02:08:57

Being in a bad work relationship can shatter you as a person and I am fighting that; you lose confidence, belief, trust in yourself and your abilities, your insights, your ability to judge.

Oh, I know that very well! I'm currently on quite a confident streak, but I know it could easily come tumbling down tomorrow, and all the thoughts about, "I am worth this, I just need to get them to see it," can be replaced by, "well, they obviously have their reasons for always criticising, so it must be me who doesn't see it."

flowery Thu 15-Aug-13 06:45:51

"My position was not covered by a union and it was contractual. I have been informally told that it one reason why the employer feels happy doing what it wants as there really is no workplace protection"

What do you mean by it was "contractual"?

If you mean you started on a fixed term contract ten years ago that doesn't give you any less protection than a permanent member of staff. Dismissals still need to be fair and after 4 years of fixed term contracts you become permanent anyway.

flatmum Thu 15-Aug-13 11:44:52

but they can't stop you working in a similar position t a different company can they? why on earth would you want to carry on working at a company that treats people like this.

legally they still have to give you a reference. I left a large company recently and they provide oy basic references that say he worked here from x-y as a whatever and at her last appraisal there was nothing identified that would prevent her doing he job.

They refuse to do more for fear of being sued. I had no problem finding another job, neither did my colleague who was sacked for gross misconduct.

flowery Thu 15-Aug-13 13:09:57

"legally they still have to give you a reference"

No they don't, not in most jobs. Financial services and childcare are two examples where an employer refusing a reference might find themselves in hot water legally.

flowery Thu 15-Aug-13 13:13:07

Oh, and not disclosing a gross misconduct dismissal on a reference is a risky thing to do as well. The new employer could take legal action on the basis that not disclosing such a vital piece of information was misleading.

Example would be if someone was dismissed for theft in a retail environment but was given a reference not mentioning that. New employer is in retail, offers a job, and is stolen from, thereby incurring a loss they would not have incurred had the reference given a true reflection of the person.

oscarwilde Thu 15-Aug-13 13:16:54

Do you have legal advice cover on your household insurance? Worth checking.

prh47bridge Thu 15-Aug-13 13:22:08

HR have informed somebody that they would make it expensive and nasty

They cannot make it expensive for you. You can represent yourself at an employment tribunal which means you wouldn't have any legal costs. You will not have to pay their legal costs even if you lose. If they are gratuitously nasty the tribunal will not be impressed. They will only be undermining themselves.

Bluntly, the fact they've said this to someone sounds to me like they are trying to scare you off. If it were me that would make me even more determined to take them to tribunal.

flatmum Thu 15-Aug-13 13:24:42

eh? that I what I said. They can't refuse a reference. te person I referred to was dismissed from a large us bank for gross misconduct (lying to an external auditor and fabricating evidence) and his reference was identical to mine (left of own accord)

flowery Thu 15-Aug-13 13:29:36

"They can't refuse a reference."

Yes that is what you said, and as I said, in most cases you are wrong.

Financial services as I said is one of the exceptions to that and they do have to give a reference. But not mentioning what sounds like fraud on a reference to another financial institution is negligent and legally extremely risky.

larrygrylls Thu 15-Aug-13 13:29:57

There is no way you can fire someone legally without any warnings, except for gross misconduct, and even then you have to have a meeting with the individual and their representative and allow them to put their side of the case.

I am struggling really to understand your OP. If you write to the company and ask formally why you were dismissed, they have to come back with a reason. Have you done this?

On the face of it, all you need is a decent lawyer's later to HR stating the employer's obligation under the contract and why they have breeched them. Then they either have to address the tort (reinstate or compensate you) or defend their position, which sounds quite difficult.

You also need to decide whether to go after them under specific employment legislation or law of contract, which a good employment law solicitor ought to be able to advise you on.

larrygrylls Thu 15-Aug-13 13:33:36

They can make things difficult for you but, especially if a large company, you can make things tough for them too. They are running large reputational risk if they have behaved badly and you make your grievance public. Equally you can request all sorts of things which will be time consuming and expensive for them such as records of their employees by sex and age etc (in the case of unfair dismissal for sexism, ageism etc).

Personally, I would favour a first letter from you to HR, stating that you believe that you have been unfairly dismissed and asking their reasons for dismissal and that you have had no chance to defend yourself. On that basis I would request reinstatement or compensation. Then see what they come back with and, if necessary, get a lawyer.

mamakoukla Thu 15-Aug-13 14:47:55

Many thanks for all of the responses; it helps put my mind in the right frame.

Flatmum, I considered returning to work there because I have a specialist set of skills and commuting will not work with my family life. They are really the major local employer. Anything else is at least a 45 min commute away. I know many people do that but three are reasons why it will not work for our family. Your immediate boss really determines the local work environment; think of it as somebody requesting being moved to a different department because the one they are in doesn't work for them. Legally there is no obligation to provide a reference but in court this could be presented as a hindrance to re-employment.

Flowery, I am in a Commonwealth country. There are many similarities to British employment law but also some significant departures. I need to be careful who I go to for help. I have seen the tremendous knowledge and wisdom available here and I wanted perspective from something independent from my life.

Here you can be a contract worker forever without being deemed permanent i.e. temporary full-time for the whole of your working life. The employer has the right to terminate you without cause if you are on contract. So hire and fire at will. For this reason, until later on, I was unaware that I was deemed terminated with just cause on the records. All of this, and other relevant information started to come out as I engaged HR. HR is now aware of a number of assumptions it made e.g. that I had been interviewed, but is not willing to back down on the basis of a decision was made. I am arguing that I was not notified that termination was with just cause; this I can fight against unlike straightforward termination. The employer basically, by subterfuge, has hidden its rulings and denied me the possibility of exercising my legal rights.

Flowery your example of not declaring items in a reference is something which scares me. If a prospective employer contacted them and they wrote a damning response based on their records, I will never know. Technically it could constitute defamation as it has not been fairly established.

Larrygrylls, I have been engaging HR and it is since then that a number of points have come out such as termination with just cause. I am cranking it up to the next level as they basically refuse to acknowledge no wrong and also the persons I have been working with have shown that they are not to be trusted e.g. withholding information of my termination, failure to implement procedure as company protocol etc. They appear to be arse covering (pardon the term) and scrambling to cover their horrendous series of deliberate mistakes.

larrygrylls Thu 15-Aug-13 15:15:00

Mama,

The term "just cause" is not very meaningful. Reasons to terminate "justly" include capability, attitude and gross misconduct (things like breaching confidentiality, stealing etc). If capability, punctuality or attitude are the problem, they are obliged to go through a process including verbal and written warnings and should include a process to bring the employee back on track, prior to firing them. If it is gross misconduct, you are within your rights to summarily dismiss someone but, nonetheless, the employee has a right to put their own case, normally accompanies by a colleague or trade union representative.

You need to ask them what the "just cause" consisted of and why they went through no dismissal procedure.

flowery Thu 15-Aug-13 15:19:52

Ok well if UK employment law doesn't apply a lot of the advice on this thread would be pretty meaningless.

Morally I'd say they've acted unfairly and unreasonably but that's my personal opinion and without knowledge of the law in your country it's impossible to translate that into whether its acceptable locally either morally or legally.

flatmum Thu 15-Aug-13 15:21:17

oh I see what you mean yes financial services have to -why is that? why are they special? I am not condoning what they did in the slightest - they were just covering their own arses, and it was merely the latest in a long line of dodgy things I saw them do. similar to this lot. I am jut saying if she calls their bluff and gets a job elsewhere what are the chances of them giving her a bad reference when they clearly want shot for whatever reason and she has so much ammunition to take action against them if they do.

surely that's the best outcome in this situation, get the hell out and move on.

flatmum Thu 15-Aug-13 15:25:10

but see your post now op about them being the only local employer. still don't think you should consider going back though a d it sound alike they would be able to prevent you doing so anyway (internally)

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