It might be a long one, but please, if there's anyone able to provide me with advice, guidance and/or any additional information I'd appreciate it immensely.
I have worked at a company for 4 and a half years and I have no prior disciplinaries or prior warnings of any kind. I am a hard-working individual who mostly go over and above what is required as per my employment contract. For the last 2 years I have been made responsible for quite an extensive amount of stuff surrounding a particular product. This required us to do some work which would interrupt service, and since I have previously had authority to send emails to our customers, I proceeded with an attempt to do so, however due to technical difficulties which has been raised the first attempt failed. The second attempt succeeded HOWEVER ALL RECIPIENTS WERE CC'ed INSTEAD OF BCC'ed.
I immediately started responding to the followed influx of emails (only directed to me from customers in the abovementioned list of recipients) asking me not to disclose their details, appologising and making clear that it was a genuine and very unfortunate mistake. for nearly all of those I responded to, I received a following email from each again implying that these things happen, not to worry etc.
I immediately notified my line manager whose initial response was that we are all human and make mistakes, to let him deal with the fallout from this, and to find a better way to do things (i.e. have a process defined for it). That was followed by a meeting a few hours later where he implied I required authorisation to do it and that he never gave me permission to do it.
As for a minute bit of historical information: I have been overworked for the last year and a half and the company agreed to provide me with an assistant more than a year ago, but have not done so, despite continuous requests to do so throughout this period. To add to frustration they managed to successfully employ at least 5 other members of staff for my floor alone in the last 5 months.
Long story short, an investigation meeting was held, and for the most part the company's disciplinary process was followed, apart from actually providing me with the meeting minutes in order for me to make any corrections prior to the company formulating a decision. Regardless of this mistake they proceeded and decided to proceed with a formal disciplinary hearing. The company chose a scary-big solicitors firm to deal with this, and the firm's initial decision to continue with disciplinary action against me was made based on the investigation meeting minutes for the most part.
They are implying that I breached several legally upholdable terms of employment, my contract, information usage policy and employee handbook etc.
The basis of misconduct is that I:
1. disclosed confidential information (i.e. our customers' email addresses to eachother)
2. committed the above mentioned without authority (even though it's provable that prior notices sent to the customers by both myself and some other colleagues was always sent out without any required authorisation),
3. also implied that I had not done enough to prevent the email going to some customers who should not have been included in the list (the notification clearly stated for any customers to ignore it if it didn't apply to them).
The last thing to add was that I've always had a mostly-different-in-opinion kind of relationship with the company's CEO, who a couple of months back told me to "F**K off then..." in front of a couple of members of staff without me having given him any reason to have done so (I didn't want to take some documents from him that he offered to me and interrupted me with the above response when I tried to explain that he already went through the contents with me) and despite never making a complaint, I can't help but feel somehow they are trying to get rid of me.
I am awaiting the findings from the law firm and also the company as to the possible action they will take if the verdict comes back as justified for disciplinary action.
So I'm an emotional wreck at present as I'm sure accusations 2 and 3 will most likely not apply after the meeting had with the law firm rep, but no 1 might stick regardless of whether or not it was an honest mistake and within their disciplinary policy is justified gross misconduct which contractual sanctions and immediate dismissal is applied to.
If you have any advice whatsoever for me I would massively appreciate!!!
I'm sorry to hear about your situation. My intial reaction is that your employer has taken quite a heavy handed approach toward this situation, Getting a lawyer involved in internal disciplinary proceedings is extremely unusual. Is it part of your employer's disciplinary policy that they can use external investigators? Anyway, that aside, you've got to try and break this up into managable 'chunks', you're dealing with it at present as one big problem and that is making your state of mind worse.
You made an error of judgement when you sent that e-mail. It happens to us all and given the additional pressures you've experienced with workload it's not surprising that such a mistake was made. If it was my Company we would probably commenced disciplinary proceedings, but with no prior record would have give a verbal warning. Whether or not your Company want you 'out' or not I still feel it's a little over the top.
I would try and ride this out. I don't believe that your Company has grounds to dismiss you with no prior 'offences'. I recommend that you contact ACAS for advice (details via any internal search engine) and for reassurance.
My view is that your employer isn't really sure what to do? This is a knee jerk reaction from them, perhaps because it's a situation they've never had to deal with before, hence the heavy handed approach. Being an 'emotional wreck' will not help you, you need to try stop worrying about the 'what ifs' and work on facts. Even if as you believe point 1 is justified gross misconduct, every disciplinary situation has circumstances surrounding it that need to be considered i.e. breaking confidentiality purposely is very different from breaking confidentiality by human error. The outcome may be the same but the intentions are different. Especially when it's clear that you tried your best to retrieve the situation.
Call ACAS, get their reassurance. Try not to worry as by doing so you will render yourself incapable of dealing with this in a calm rational manner.
I wish you luck with this, keep a cool head, MB.
Hi Memphis Belle,
Thank you so much for your response.
The company issued me with a written warning, seemingly not taking all arguments in consideration. I have challenged their inconsistent approach and also the lack of consideration.
The consultant from the law firm they brought in created an investigation report based on an informal meeting's minutes which I neither saw before the hearing but also not agreed was accurate. She wanted to stop the hearing as a result, but I asked to continue and requested that she acknowledge the mistakes as per my statement, and take my full pre-prepared statement into account. It now seems that she either didn't go and update the report or the company refuses to present me with her findings after she did. I only received the written warning and formal hearing minutes to sign.
They have also not admitted that the company is in part to blame for the occurrence since there were several steps which they could have taken to prevent this mess.
What's even worse is that the CEO then told accounts after the warning was issued, to not pay out my monthly bonus. This was never discussed or confirmed during the process. My Line manager, upon enquiring about this, admitted that it was "unrelated to the disciplinary process, but as a result of it". Upon kicking up a fuss over it, they quickly did a U-turn and now they want to "separate" the occurrence from the disciplinary process.
I have been advised by my line manager not to push it further since I could be the one suffering more at the end but that sort of just gave me the justification to do exactly that.
I have submitted an appeal, but I don't know what's next. It seems like they wanted to follow this process to prove to their customers that they have performed due diligence with regards to the issue, but they're not saying that this is the case, and if this is I consider it extremely unfair.
HR keeps telling me I'm a "valued" member of staff, and since I'm the only person doing what I do (it is a somewhat specialised role), they might have to get more than 1 person to replace me should I leave. Nobody internally would take my position - for sure. Taken this alone into consideration, should they not have been more lenient?I am considering asking for my father's assistance since he offered to get an international law firm involved which he works with frequently, if I feel this is all too much for me but I also don't want to walk out, sue them and then lose the valuable reference I can get from them.
Firstly I'm pleased to hear that the situation at work has moved forward and you still have a job. As I said before, I sense that your employer isn't really sure what to do and throw in a bullish CEO and the outcome isn't good.
Your last line really concerns me though. My advice is don't go down this route. It will cost you more money that I expect you can afford. Your employer has no real case to answer - they've followed a (sort of) process with the hearing and most of the other circumstances are either difficult to prove, heresay or your employer's inefficiency. It will cause you more stress that you ever thought you'd experience and you will not win. I can tell you that now.
Please consider my advice. You're hurting at the moment because you've been treated unfairly. But, you've still got your job. I would put all my time and energy now in to finding a new job. That's the best thing you can do. You've got to draw a line and put this behind you. Please for the sake of your sanity and health tell yourself that you're the bigger person and get out there and find yourself a better employer. Believe me you'll get no greater pleasure than sticking two fingers up at them and walking away. You've done so well to get this far without losing it, so focus that strength on doing something really positive for yourself - you deserve it.
Be strong, MB.
You have still got a job and only got a written warning. Be happy and do not exacerbate the situation
I agree with Peter.
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