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employment tribunal - how does this work?

(16 Posts)
wallaby73 Thu 27-Feb-14 10:31:04

I know i do need to see a lawyer about this but wondered if anyone had any initial advice. I have had to lodge an official complaint at work for sexual harrassment against a colleague (including inappropriate touching, harassment over work email in work time, manipulation etc, all of which I have evidence of, and to boot it turns out he has previous convictions of a very serious nature, which i wasn't aware of, and in a sense it is not what the complaint is about, although it does lead to a wider matter of why he has not been monitored and why he is now in a management role). The "investigation" is taking forever and is being dealt with by our HR dept. Apparently just before i lodged my complaint, there was an edict given to the HR dept from above (I work for a large university) to not suspend anyone unless "absolutely" necessary as it was felt too many legal wrangles were happenning. So, the net result is he has not been suspended whilst this investigation is ongoing. I am being forced into situations, meetings, which he is running or participating in, and i don't wish to engage with him in any way. Another female colleague has also lodged a complaint, and she is in the same position as me, we are both finding it increasingly distressing and feel we have been "left" to just "deal with it" and put everything to oneside until the investigation is concluded. I have been very clear with HR in how distressing this is, and they do not respond. I have to deal with this man daily, knowing he is fully aware I have complained. There is more detail in that whenever HR have said "we will send you the papers by x date" or "we will be telling X about the complaint at x time on x date", they have repeatedly failed to meet the timelines they have set out to me, so i have had the added distress of sitting expecting something to happen, it doesn't, and i have to chase them.

In order to consult lawyers and take this to another level, do i have to wait for the complaints process to conclude, or can i just do it anyway??

Pheonixisrising Thu 27-Feb-14 19:34:11

Personally if you are not in a union , I would go to a solicitor.
This shouldn't be causing you more distress and your employer has a duty of care to you
Good luck

prh47bridge Thu 27-Feb-14 21:52:53

There is nothing to stop you consulting a lawyer at any stage. However, a claim of constructive dismissal will almost certainly fail if the grievance is still in process. The university will simply say that if you'd waited for the process to finish the situation would have been dealt with.

AlpacaYourThings Thu 27-Feb-14 21:55:26

Have you spoken to ACAS?

It might be wise to move this to 'Employment issues' there will probably be more knowledgable posters there.

wallaby73 Fri 28-Feb-14 07:11:34

Thanks for your responses; yes i am in a union and my rep has assisted me and attended meetings with me. I don't want to leave my job, i really don't. The jobs market is scarce and i'm a single parent, but i am so angered at how i'm being treated throughout this process; myunion rep in all her years of experience, has said she is utterly baffled by their approach. It feels like being cast aside tbh....

HermioneWeasley Fri 28-Feb-14 10:46:19

I would write to the HR director setting out your concerns. Allegations of inappropriate touching are very serious, and you say you have emails. The emails (depending on the contents) would probably be enough hard evidence to insist on his suspension (as opposed to a dispute where it's not clear where any blame or fault lies). I would state that being forced to continue working with this person is causing you stress and you are informing them as they have a duty of care for you. I would also state that failing to protect you, not carrying out the investigation in a timely manner and failing to meet their own deadlines and failing to respond to you will result in you feeling your contract has been breached if this is not brought to a timely resolution.

There is no reason why suspension should result in legal wrangles - it is merely a management tool to facilitate investigation.

Good luck!

wallaby73 Fri 28-Feb-14 11:51:49

Hermione, many thanks for your reply. I submitted my complaint in early December; HR are already fully aware that being forced to continue to work with the person is causing me stress, in fact i had 2 weeks off initially due to the distress caused and they have the sicknote for this. they simply emailed me a phone number for the counsellors. It seems that they are unwilling to act. The allegations are serious and the evidence I have submitted is very clear cut. I am wary of piling on the pressure to HR as i may then become "part of the problem" if their motivations are fear of litigation. I have also asked about duty of care and if there is any sort of monitoring in place when employing ex-offenders, they have not commented directly to me but have "noted my comments" and will "feed back to me" when the "investigation is concluded". I feel presently they are hoping this will all blow over and want to keep it as quiet as possible. Meanwhile i am coming to work daily and having to work in a shared office with this person, it really is intolerable, trying to avoid any situation where i may be left alone with him (as i have been repeatedly told it is a confidential matter, so i can't discuss this matter with anyone.....). The other colleague who has complained is in the same situation and we are left watching out for eachother.....

slug Fri 28-Feb-14 12:11:33

Is it worth reporting the sexual assault to the police? This may force HR's hand

BusinessUnusual Fri 28-Feb-14 13:30:15

OP

would you and your colleague want to seek paid leave whilst this is ongoing? Not suspension but additional holiday.

prh47bridge Fri 28-Feb-14 13:35:38

I agree with HermioneWeasley that you need to push. At the moment your concern about becoming part of the problem means you are allowing them to procrastinate. If they believe you will leave and take legal action against them if they don't pull their fingers out they may actually get on and do something.

littleredsquirrel Fri 28-Feb-14 13:38:20

I'm an employment lawyer and own a specialist employment law firm. You can consult a solicitor at any time. PM me if you want to have a chat offline, a carefully worded solicitors letter here could make all the difference,

HermioneWeasley Fri 28-Feb-14 13:46:43

The HR team sound dreadful and you do not have to put up with this. Do not be fobbed off by them. LittleRed has offered you some offline advice - I urge you to take her up on the offer. You could have this sorted within days and it would be such a weight off your mind.

wallaby73 Fri 28-Feb-14 13:47:08

Many thanks for your replies, it is really hard to know what to do for the best. I refuse to let this drop, yet at the same time i don't want to go down the "constructive dismissal" route as it feels like such a gamble which i can't afford to risk. Squirrel - i will PM you when i have a moment. Slug - it isn't an assault as such, although attempts at unsolicited touching are involved, but it is more manipulation, and i feel, a serious attempt at grooming. And i'm not the first.

Kemmo Fri 28-Feb-14 18:32:29

I have known uni staff be suspended during investigations into allegations that are significantly less serious than this. I am gobsmacked that he has not been suspended.

I would send a strongly worded letter emphasising the distress that THEIR actions have caused to you. Be clear that you are complaining about their lack of action rather than about the person under investigation (which you have already complained about). You need to keep these two aspects separate.

BrandNewIggi Fri 28-Feb-14 21:26:50

In cases of sexual harassment, is there not a time limit for taking out a case?
Your situation sounds very unfair sad

honestpointofview Sat 01-Mar-14 20:14:36

Wallaby

All are right re advice but as you are in the union I would push them to get the advice. You pay membership to get legal advice from them so make sure they help you.

Re suspension. I advise clients now to only suspend as last resort. For a long time the courts of held that suspension with proper evidence can give rise to a personal injury claim (Gogay v Hertefordshire 2000 Court of Appeal). This principle has been confirmed by House of Lords/Supreme court and one judge even suggested he would like to see how many people were dismissed because the manager hearing the matter assumed they were guilty because the employee had been suspended).

The rulings show that you should suspend if necessary and a last resort. Necessary could include the employer is worried investigation might be a risk (the person will interfere) or if there is areal issue of safety or that they might do the same thing again. The employer should consider moving them before suspension. ACAS says suspension is a neutral act. I don't think the courts really agree and if you are the person being suspended and had done nothing wrong I don't think it would feel like a neutral act.

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