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Employment tribunal nightmare

(58 Posts)
Vincenza Wed 04-Jun-08 14:16:15

Hello

I worked for a big organisation for 2 weeks short of a year. I was fired for gross misconduct for something I did not do. I have full written evidence of this, great performance reviews from my peers and also evidence that I was fired for taking parental leave of 2 days as my son was sick (am a single mother). I went to appeal, answered all relevant points (AGAIN) and raised a grievance (which I raised prior to initial hearing but they did not want to hear until after it). That was a month and a half ago and I have not heard anything since. I was told in accordance with HR rules they would get back to me in 5 days. I have a solicitor who tells me I have a very strong case for tribunal. Am confused though as to why an HR department would behave like this. Surely such a direct contravention of HR policies would reflect badly on them at a tribunal? When I asked the HR man (AGAIN) where my outcome letter was he replied that it had gone to the lawyers? Is this normal practice or does it suggest that they are going to a compromise agreement (which is what I wanted in the first place). Does anyone have any experience of going to a tribunal?? I have heard that employers rarely go that far and normally settle at the 11th hour?? Please help. I am a desperate single mother who gets no maintenance and now has no income.

Many thanks

jamescagney Wed 04-Jun-08 15:41:45

Hey no advice for you but bumping for you smilegood luck!

flowerybeanbag Wed 04-Jun-08 17:10:05

Vincenza it does sound from what you say as though you may have a decent case, if that's what you want to do.

In terms of why companies behave in contradiction to their own policies, could be any number of reasons, but yes you are right it will not reflect well on them should this end up in a tribunal.

It sounds as though your letter is being checked by their solicitor. In circumstances where someone has been dismissed at this stage in their employment and is challenging it, then yes it is normal to run it past a solicitor, and doesn't necessarily mean they are planning to offer you some money.

Whether an employer will attempt to settle it would depend on lots of factors. If you decide to put in a tribunal claim they will take advice as to whether it's worth their while defending it or not.

I'm not very clear what help you are asking for. If you have a solicitor already who is familiar with the details of your case and is advising you about whether you can make a claim and for what, keep talking to him/her, he/she is best-placed to advise you.

If it's experiences of a tribunal you are after, there are people who have gone all the way on here, or close to it, so keep bumping and hopefully some people will be able to tell you their experiences.

I hope that's a bit helpful anyway, sorry you are having such a rough time.

Vincenza Thu 05-Jun-08 09:58:53

Hi

Thanks for your advice flowerybeanbag! Not sure what I was asking really! I would quite like to hear of people's experiences of going/ filing for tribunal. I think I would just like to know what they are up to (which obviously nobody could tell me apart from them!).

Many thanks

flowerybeanbag Thu 05-Jun-08 10:06:57

Hopefully some people will be along to tell of their experiences.

It's an interesting question, 'what are they up to'. I expect someone has cocked up and what they are up to is working out what on earth to do about it. As you may know, normally you don't have rights to claim unfair dismissal before a year. They are cutting it very fine dismissing you at the 50 week stage, but there are some exceptions to that rule as well.

If you feel there has been discrimination that is an exception, and if you feel you have been dismissed because you exercised one of your employment rights (such as parental leave) then that's an exception as well, and would be unfair.

So from that point of view, assuming you have the evidence you mention, you would have an excellent case. I would imagine they are taking advice about what to do. If the case is as clear-cut as it sounds, they won't want to go to a tribunal as they will lose, so they may well offer you a compromise agreement to go away.

Vincenza Thu 05-Jun-08 11:03:38

Hi Flowerybeanbag

Thanks for your advice. Do you work in HR/ employment law?

Their case against me is VERY tenuous. Plus I have previously been in charge of performance managing someone out of role so I was very careful to ensure that I have fully documented all of my actions/ minuted all meetings (including the one where I was told my request for parental leave was a 'cock and bull story'). I agree that I think someone has cocked up big time. When I emailed the person who heard my appeal to find out where the decision was (which was at this point over 2 weeks late) I was told I would have to wait as he was busy doing his 'day job'. I don't think this kind of dismissive behaviour will serve them well in court. My solicitor has faxed them and told them if we don't have a decision tomorrow we are going to tribunal and filing for automatic unfair dismissal so fingers crossed it gets sorted soon. In your experience do companies generally hold out until the 11th hour?? I get the impression they can't be bothered or they think that if they drag it out long enough I will simply go away. They must be deluded!!

V

flowerybeanbag Thu 05-Jun-08 12:56:58

Yes I do, I'm an HR Consultant, I have my own company advising businesses on employment stuff, including how to avoid getting themselves into this kind of pickle!

Whether they'll hold out to the 11th hour will depend on lots of things including how good their solicitor feels your case is, and how much they think it would cost them either way. If you're getting good advice and have a solicitor contacting them hopefully they'll realise you're serious and aren't going away and will sort it out accordingly.

Vincenza Thu 05-Jun-08 14:41:32

Thank you so much. You are very generous advising on here for free.

I have received a letter registered post but it has gone to the Post Office as I wasn't it and I won't be able to pick it up until tomorrow morning. I am pretty sure it is them. Nightmare! I will report back in due course.

Again, thank you for your help

flowerybeanbag Thu 05-Jun-08 14:49:18

I suppose I am. I don't give any free advice to business owners on here though, as they would be potential clients in real life.

But individuals are often fighting against big companies and have no way of affording professional advice so if I can help I am happy to.

Definitely come back and let us know what the letter says.

Pinkjenny Thu 05-Jun-08 14:52:30

You are very generous, flowery, my sweet. Most of the time I can't even be pestered advising my managers/employees at work.

You're a star, I tell ya.

flowerybeanbag Thu 05-Jun-08 14:55:41

<<polishes halo>>

blushgrin

Vincenza Fri 06-Jun-08 09:25:46

Hi FBB

I got my letter today. No sign of a compromise agreement. Basically they were simply overturning a grievance that I raised against my manager. No word about the appeal decision re my initial firing for misconduct (no evidence to contravene my evidence so not surprising really!). They have v kindly given me 5 days to appeal my grievance (even though it has taken them a month a half to get back to me on the decision of mine). I am reluctant to enter into any more of the HR process with them as they have failed to act in good faith or follow due process at every step of the way. Also I need to file for tribunal by 28th June. Can I email HR and say this to them - and also say given that they have contravened due process I am going to straight to tribunal???

I also emailed the chairman of the 'ethical' company last week (that prides themselves on being 'good with people'). I was very factual and appealed to him directly to sort this out. I got no response. Am thinking of emailing him again today to tell him that they have failed to follow due process and I am going straight to tribunal. It does seem very dramatic but the people involved are only the level below him.

Many many thanks again for your help. You are a star!

flowerybeanbag Fri 06-Jun-08 09:45:56

I wouldn't bother emailing the chairman. IME of chairmen they are not usually involved in the slightest in the actual day to day running of the organisation and wouldn't want to be. If the individuals concerned are only one level below then that's senior enough.

You are expected to go through an internal grievance process before bringing a tribunal claim as I am sure you know. Time limits are usually extended to allow this to happen. But having said that, all you are expected to do is make every effort, and if the company are subjecting you to unreasonable delay, its fine to go ahead with a tribunal claim.

I would suggest bunging in an appeal letter asap, you don't need to go to too much trouble, just register the fact that you appeal it, and start the process in motion for a tribunal claim at the same time. Let the HR Director know that that's what you are doing. I am assuming that if the people you are dealing with are one level below the chairman you are fairly senior and have relatively easy access to the HR Director or similar, so I'd skip anyone more junior in this case if possible.

Go and see your solicitor and start getting the claim together so you are ready with it and can put it in in plenty of time assuming they are rubbish about dealing with the appeal as well.

What a shame this is!

Vincenza Fri 06-Jun-08 10:01:16

I know. It is a nightmare.

Thanks for your advice re the chairman. I have emailed him before with no response but I do know that someone got a rollicking for not getting back to me so that was nice!

I am fairly senior and getting a permanent job at my level is difficult. However I have been contracting and have not yet lost out financially. Is it still worth me pursuing a tribunal (if I can hang it on the fact that I was fired for taking parental leave)? Am I right in thinking that in this case I would get damages for stress etc?

Thanks

flowerybeanbag Fri 06-Jun-08 10:23:36

Hmmmm. Tribunal compensation amounts are often largely decided by what your actual loss is, as I am sure you know. Usually if someone has an unfair dismissal case it's not worth pursuing if they have a new job.

However, if you don't have a permanent job you could say that although you haven't suffered much of a loss yet, there is some to come. Injury to feelings is what it's called in those cases where compensation isn't confined to financial loss.

I do think you need to have a chat with your solicitor about what exactly you would be claiming and what the remedies might be. I don't know how legally literate you are, but you could have a bash at reading this which is aimed at legal advisers but isn't too horrendous to read.

Your argument could be that you have suffered a detriment for trying to exercise a specific statutory right, so see the section on that. You would probably be unlikely to be able to claim sex discrimination unless men are permitted to take parental leave as it's not a specific right for women obviously.

Have a read, but I do strongly advise you talk through all this with your solicitor at this point to establish whether it's worth bringing a claim and what you'd put in it. I don't have enough of the details to advise you further really, and this is the point where a solicitor is the best person.

I am happy to talk to you further if it would be helpful so don't feel this thread has finished, sometimes just having someone to bounce things off is handy. But in terms of professional technical advice, that's as far as I can go at the moment.

Vincenza Mon 09-Jun-08 20:12:48

Thanks FBB

Quick update. I did as advised and registered my request to appeal and told them that I would be filing for tribunal in conjunction with this.

I then received an email from the Chief Exec's secretary who said he would be getting back to me shortly.....

He has until Friday when I will be playing my trump card. I emailed a newspaper to see whether they would be interested in pursuing my story (and a couple of other choice snippets that I have) as long as I was quoted anonymously and they are very interested (and responded in an email). Will be forwarding this titbit to him on Friday which should clarify his mind somewhat....

Will keep you posted

flowerybeanbag Mon 09-Jun-08 20:26:46

Blimey! <<intrigued>>grin
Sounds as though they are taking you seriously anyway, but good to know you have another option to help things along if you haven't heard back by Friday.

Would you actually go through with it, or would it just be a threat? If he comes back with an offer to settle, will you use that to negotiate the offer higher?

None of this any of my business, feel free to ignore! Thanks for the update anyway, I was going to bump this tonight to see how things were going.

Fingers crossed, and let us know when you get an answer if you're happy to do that.

RibenaBerry Mon 09-Jun-08 22:29:59

Vincenza, Just a word of warning. It is, of course, fine to warn your ex employer that newspapers might be interested in your story and that publicity is part of the risk of a tribunal, but be v v careful of saying anything that could be construed as blackmail. I am sure that it would not be your intention to do so, but even "I'll go to the press if you don't negotiate" could massively backfire on you if it got to a tribunal and was used against you. I have seen people's credibility shot down in flames in similar situations...

I don't mean to attack your honesty or intentions, just warning how these things can spiral...

Vincenza Tue 10-Jun-08 09:29:55

Hi

Thanks ladies. That is worth knowing.

I am going to paint myself as an injured person with no other options left to her. To be honest with you I don't think I will bother going to tribunal as I already have another job. I am simply going to use it as a bargaining tool for them to do the right thing. I have been treated exceptionally badly by a company that prides itself on family and ethical values. I will go through with it if I don't receive a pay off from them as a) I believe the public have a right to know the level of their hypocrisy and b) I don't make empty threats. Plus they have promised me they will do my story with me as an anonymous source so I have nothing to lose.

The main way this company acquires new business is trading on its 'ethical' reputation so there is NO way the Chief Exec is going to let this get any further. Not when it is his name in the paper and he can get rid of me by chucking me 6 months pay (or maybe a year - I will see how generous I am feeling!!).

Playing it on Friday. Will keep you posted!

RibenaBerry Tue 10-Jun-08 09:56:40

Vincenza,

You aren't going to like this, but I think your expectations for pay off are way too high. You have just told me that you already have another job. Compensation, even in discrimination cases, is broadly based on financial loss. If you already have another job, how long will you have been out of work for? That's your benchmark for compensation if you win.

Although you can get something for injury to feelings, we aren't talking the sort of numbers you want.

By all means ask, but even the most publicity shy company won't normally pay well over the odds to shut up a story. This is particularly the case given that confidentiality clauses are not worth the paper they are written on when 'anonymous sources' can be used.

I would suggest you talk to your lawyer about what you would realistically settle for.

Vincenza Tue 10-Jun-08 10:17:49

No worries. I know all of this. I also have a potential sex discrimination claim though and I do not have a permanent job - only contracting. I would like my notice period paid for though (3 months) and I would also like my legal fees covered.

Thanks Ribena for keeping my feet on the ground!

Vincenza Tue 10-Jun-08 10:45:31

p.s. when my solicitor first saw the case she said that 6 months would not be unreasonable.

RibenaBerry Tue 10-Jun-08 11:48:52

Ah, I see, so it's based on the risk that your financial losses might not have ended (because the contracting is unstable). I understand now.

Just as an aside, the sex discrimnation claim doesn't add extra money, except the injury to feelings.

Good luck!

Vincenza Tue 10-Jun-08 13:12:20

My feelings are very injured!!

Plus I have been under enormous amounts of stress. Am a single mother who gets minimal amounts of maintenance from ex and I have to pay school fees/ childcare in order to work and I lost my job virtually overnight for NOTHING! Not that I am bitter or anything smile. Basically I just want to recoup my financial loss (both salary and solicitor) and give myself a bit of comfort for the future. Do you think this is reasonable?

RibenaBerry Tue 10-Jun-08 13:21:38

Vincenza,

The thing is, the law only lets you recoup your financial losses, plus injury to feelings. It does not let you cover legal costs (normally) and it doesn't award you "comfort for the future" (ever).

Injury to feelings is not actually really about how stressed and upset you are, it's about the seriousness of the action based on a sliding scale set by the courts (it's called Vento after the case they drew it up in). Awards are normally between about £500 and £25,000. But (big but) a lot of them are in the £500 to £5,000 bracket. Few are at the high end.

I know that sounds really unfair. Most people assume (pretty reasonably in my view) that the law will compensate them for how 'wrong' what happened was. It doesn't.

Also, you of course have to bear in mind that you don't have unfair dismissal rights. You have to prove discrimination to win anything at all about your termination (unless the parental leave was actual parental leave in the formal legal sense, not an informal two days off. If you were fired for taking that, that is also protected from day one of employment. It sounds like maybe it was informal because you have to request parental leave a number of weeks in advance and you took it off because your child was sick). It doesn't matter if you didn't do the thing you were accused of (except that you could claim for your notice pay) and it doesn't matter that they didn't follow their policies or that they have been crap at getting back to you.

I don't want to tread on your lawyer's toes and I think you should talk to him/her about this. However, I also don't want you to be disappointed, so it's as well to understand how these things operate.

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