Domestic abuse at work - what to do?(19 Posts)
I will try to keep this short. Posting on behalf of friend.
Friend was in relationship with colleague, he was physically and emotionally abusive with her for a number of years. she recently ended the relationship with him and her turned violent and started harassing/stalking her, she went to police and he was charged with harassment and put on police bail until end August. conditions of police bail mean he can't contact her and can't come near her home, but unfortunately don't apply to the workplace. she has gone to HR and they initially said they would put them both on different shifts so she didn't have to see him but have since gone back on their word with this.
she has severe, diagnosed PTSD because of this man's actions. Work have launched an investigation against him but in the meantime he is still able to work there, still able to see her. she cannot do her job as she cannot be around him so she is forced to be off sick.
HR are saying they have a duty of care towards him and he needs to be able to do his job. I can't understand why he hasn't been suspended. I come from the corporate sector and someone in my office was sacked last week for swearing over email! This guy has sent numerous abusive emails to my friend via work and has also been violent at work (unfortunately with no witnesses, he's clever) so it's not like this is just happening outside work.
Work are now saying they can't act at all unless she brings a formal complaint against him, but due to her PTSD she is unable to do this as it would require them being in the same room together and him being able to answer it. she has a note from the doctor saying given her health condition this is not an appropriate course of action, but work still say that's the only thing she can do.
can anyone with legal expertise in this area advise what next steps might be? we have tried women's aid etc etc but this is a very odd situation as it's extremely rare to have a domestic violence victim working with her abuser rather than living with, having kids with etc. so a lot of the advice isn't relevant.
she's unable to leave her job, I can't say why as it would out her, but it's not an option for her.
sorry for length, didn't want to drip feed. she is devastated by the lack of support. I am furious. No wonder more women don't leave or come forward when abused. Look at the walls they meet everywhere.
thanks for any help.
Why would they have to be in the same room for a formal complaint?
Why haven't they actioned the abusive emails? Have they seen the emails?
I don't know why, work have said that that is policy as he has the right to answer any allegations.
Yes, they have seen them. They have launched an 'investigation' but in the meantime it seems to be business as usual.
I just despair of it all.
It sounds to me as though they are failing in their duty of care to her.
I'm confused though. They've told her they can't act without her making a formal complaint and sitting in the same room as him (which is rubbish), but they have launched an investigation into him. Which is it?
flowery that is what I think.
They launched an investigation into him because initially I think basically they wanted to try and get him sacked without involving her because they knew it would put her in danger, so I think they just did the whole 'someone's made allegations against you' type thing. However I don't think the investigation's even been started yet. She isn't being told anything by HR but is still expected to either be there and work with him or get signed off sick.
His management (there are separate departments at this place) are being deliberately awkward, saying that he has to do the same shift as her on X day because there's no one else who could do it (this is categorically not true). HR are being weak (IMO).
So to answer your question, I don't know what it is. I think they're saying they can't keep him away from her at work without her bringing up a formal complaint.
Well that's nonsense. There's no law saying a company can't keep someone away from someone else at work unless there is a formal complaint. That's a management decision. I'd suggest she raises a grievance about that decision.
You mention HR and I agree it sounds as though they are being completely ineffectual, but how about her direct line manager? Is he/she being supportive?
Her line manager is being supportive, yes, but is pretty much going on HR's recommendations which are crap.
She was trying to get an injunction out against him but has been told by women's aid that she won't get it because a) he's not been violent to her recently and (b) he hasn't tried to contact her because he's on police bail. which is a crock of shit really isn't it. Do they have to wait til he kicks the shit out of her again before they do something about it? Or til he kills her?
I'm now wondering if the diagnosis of PTSD and the fact he is a trigger would be enough for work to consider keeping him away from her.
I would understand the position a little more if they worked in a little office that was 9-5, but this is a big organisation with massively different shift patterns, so there's actually no reason whatsoever for them to be there at the same time.
If he is abusing her through the work email then of course she can get an injunction. Has she ever spoken to a legal expert on employment law? Where is SarEl when you need her?
I'm surprised the work emails haven't led to them suspending him pending investigation, and I don't understand why who the emails are to is relevant. They exist. she doesn't need to testify to show that. If they were to a client they would not be expected to come in and attend a meeting with him.
It doesn't sound like they are handling it very well. Not sure what to suggest other than she asks for a copy of their procedures and makes sure they are following them/makes them follow them.
Injunctions are nothing to do with employment law.
She needs to complain about how they are handling it. They are not fulfilling their duty of care towards her at all, and they are making themselves possibly vulnerable legally also.
I know injunctions are nothing to do with employment law, we just thought if she had an injunction against him work would be forced to act as legally he couldn't be near her.
The emails (from his work address) were sent a little while ago so she's worried work will say they are no longer relevant. She's also worried he will make up lies about her and say she's been harassing/abusing him, as these men tend to do.
I've read the policies they have and it states they may 'suspend pending an investigation if an employee of suspected of gross misconduct'. But ACAS have said this is down to their discretion. And also her workplace have said 'bullying' isn't necessarily gross misconduct.
She's been to work this evening he was waiting outside for her as she went in. Didn't speak to her, as his bail conditions stop him from doing that, but it gave her a panic attack.
Yes sorry that was directed at Doreen who implies otherwise.
Yes they'd be forced to act then, but my point is they could do things now but are choosing not to. That's why I think she needs to raise a formal grievance about how they are (not) handling the situation and failing in their duty of care towards her.
Surely they could sack him for gross misconduct?
Button yes you would think so wouldn't you but apparently not!! She has printed copies of the emails but she's worried that won't be good enough if he's deleted them from his computer. Also because these ones were sent a while ago, the more recent ones were sent from his personal account.
She's been told bullying doesn't count as gross misconduct. Which I think is a crock of shit. The company are trying to help her by doing the investigation but they're still putting his needs above hers. Presumably they're afraid he could take them to a tribunal for unfair dismissal.
Is there anything in their staff handbook about bullying and harassment?
I'd suggest giving ACAS a call for advice.
Is she in a union? If so, they would have a legal team and could take up her case
Yes sorry that was directed at Doreen who implies otherwise
I didn't imply that they were related to employment law. But if she got an injunction then they would have to do something. Abuse is abuse, even through a works email system.
Yes she is in a union. She is going to see their lawyers next week, so hopefully that will be of some use.
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