Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Mark - wanted to post this on the I have a question thread but can\'t access it so please bear with me.

On Friday PM my wife, who works part time for a= high street chain was serving customers at the till. She served a customer in the queue who had already been rude to another member of staff and proceeded to the next. Suddenly the first customer started shouting and complaining about my wife\'s failure to pack her bag. My wife had never been told that bag packing was compulsory and had already started serving another customer. The truth is she panicked and didn\'t know what to do. Whatever she did, she thought one of the customers would be upset. The complainant demanded to see the manager and to cut a long story short, my wife was suspended till today. She was never rude to the customer, didn\'t know that bag packing was \'compulsory\' and has never received any training in customer service or dealing with aggressive customers. We both feel this is very unfair and whilst acknowledging that she should have packed the bag, feel this action is a complete over-reaction. It appears that, despite having another member of staff\'s word that the woman had already been rude to her for no reason prior to the incident, they are taking her side and going to punish my wife. She has worked there for about a year (22 hrs per week) and has had no other significant problems in this time. For those who don\'t know, she is foreign and this is her first proper job in the UK. We don\'t know what the outcome will be and I\'ve told her to accept a written or verbal warning if one is given as she doesn\'t want to put a future reference at risk. I fear worse may happen though and, if so, wonder what she can/should she do.

Can anyone offer any advice please.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Shigg
Well assuming that the shop she works in recognises a union, get in touch with them straight away. Even if she's not yet a member I'd be surprised if they won't at least advise her.

Disciplinary action - advice sought - THe Growler
A goo few years' background experience here:

You can't fire/suspend an employee without a proper written notice which has to be substantiated by firm evidence detailing the offence, how it allegedly contravenes company policy (with quoted references to specific items of same and if possible where these are mentioned in the employee's employment contract); this should at least include a written statement by the complaining customer;

A good lawyer should be able to press this for you and demand sight of the above, otherwise you will sue for damages for lost income, loss or reputation of your wife and whatever else he can think of;

He might also want to point out that there may be the smell of racial discrimination if your wife is not a UK national, and you might also want to engage the local media in the discussion (Hint hint).

My hunch is the store will back fdown pretty quick if you take the offensive.

Of course the assumption all along here is your good lady is in fact the innocent party. Even if it's six of one etc, a good lawyer should muddy it enough so you come out ahead.

GOod luck.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Thanks both. My wife's only guilty of not packing the bag and not knowing she was supposed to (apparently, 'cos she was never told this was company policy and has spoken to other staff who didn't know this either).
At no point was she rude and another customer actually confronted the complainant and told her how rude she'd been to my wife. This was witnessed by another member of staff.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Toad, of Toad Hall.
Volvoman: They suspended her? I worked for safeways when I was a school. They used to hand verbal and written warnings out like confetti and neither would feature on a reference, but suspension was unheard of. (Once when a baker punched an assistant on camera was my only recollection)

Suspension for forgetting to pack seems really odd. Is there more to this than meets the eye?
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
That's what I'm worried about Toad. It seems very heavy handed and weighted very heavily against my wife. She may have been wrong but was verbally abused by the customer and did not respond in the same way.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - mark
Hello Volvoman not a pleasant situation but a few pointers for you.

In general the fact that your wife has a PT job should not make much difference if any to her protection in employment law as PT workers must have comparable terms and conditions to FT employees.

In practice this means that she should have been issued with written terms and conditions of employment within the first 8 weeks of starting work for the company in question and within these conditions there should be detailed a disciplinary procedure. This is the first place to start to look as this will detail different "offences" and outline the company response.

More importantly from your point of view if you wife has never been given this information or if the local manager decides not to follow the guidance when punishing your wife its probably time for an Employment Tribunal if the worst comes to the worse or if your wife suffers unfairly.

It is my experience that most middle or branch managers whilst knowing that such procedures exist lose it when implimenting them in disciplinary situations. Their minds will be wonderfully focused if after failing to follow procedures or by not complying they might be asked to attend (or at least think they will) a Tribunal. Though this is not a card to play up front I would wait until the manager has outlined his position and what he intends to do.

Another card you could play in extremis is the race card as you mention your wife is foreign. I have had to deal with one or two vexatious cases of this type within the organisation I work for an this leaves most managers extremely vunerable as companies do not want to be seen to be racist. Colour of skin is immaterial here we are looking for being treated differently for being foriegn hopefully with evidence of being treated less favourably over a period of time. Not an easy one to play but it is a bit like a the old cold war principle of MAD the manager will really be hoping you never use it. You may find therefore an amicable arrangement can be reached should you feel the need to deploy this tactic.

I hope it doesnt get to the stage where you have to consider the second option the first one is usually coach and horses in larger companies.

hope this helps

as ever


Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Mark - She has never been given a contract or written terms/conditions. Only odd pieces of paper outlining matters such as theft, protecting company assets etc .`etc. Nothing about her rights and their internal procedures for such issues.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - THe Growler
If this is indeed the case, then the store manager appears to have acted totally out of line and you've got him nailed. Good idea to find out who his boss is well and tell him/her what you intend to to do.

THe store will fold, I have little doubt. Don't let it stop there though, once you've won get a written apology and a guarantee of a favoravle employment reference.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - mark
Coach and Horses here, my experience as a Personnel Director and having to hoover up after managers who do not do what the company requires them to do suggested this might be a good starting point.

Firstly 3 useful publications, Employment Rights for part time workers ERF6 and the DTI booklet Written Statement of Employment Particulars PL700 and Employmnent Rights Factsheet "Written Statement of Employment Terms ERF15 should provide most of the information you need here. All employees should receive written terms and conditions and should as good practice be asked to sign something to say they have been issued

How can an employee follow company rules and regulations if they have never been issued with them? This is a good arguement to deploy once the manager has outlined his case, it might stop him in his tracks. As mentioned above lack of training is worth throwing into the equation and unless the manager is particularly stupid he should at this point wake up and smell the coffee. If he insists on disciplinary action note any objections you have on any form he might produce or write to the him following the event ( copying to the company HR manager)pointing why you cannot accept the action he has taken and keep a copy. If things motor downhill from there a Tribunal might be looming,if your wife is dismmissed you will require an IT1 available from ACAS, Jobcentres or most solicitors to start the ball rolling.

hope this helps

as ever

Disciplinary action - advice sought - J Bonington Jagworth
"..has never received any training in customer service.."

A very strong point in her favour, if it comes to tribunal (say), and one that should be easily verified, as it probably applies to everyone else. If you haven't already, I would write a firm but polite letter to the store manager, copied to the head office personnel dept (sorry, 'human resources'), with the assistance of any union/legal people you can muster.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Thanks all so far !

I've just dropped her off and have told her to explain her position (as described above) and wait to see what they have to say. If a warning is the outcome - so be it ! Unfair, but there we are!

However, if worse is to happen then I've told her to say she feels she's been very badly treated and will be taking further advice on what to do next. I've told her not to sign anything under any circumstances until she's had it checked and can fully understand it. For reasons I can't explain here, this will be a real ordeal for her and my main hope is that she won't be panicked into doing something silly.

I feel she and her colleagues are in an impossible situation - told that the customer is king but often put in a position whereby to please a customer they have to displease another effectively ! They all work under great pressure with tills that don't work properly and cause queues to build up and customer tensions to rise. Despite their promises to the contrary, the company have never given her any real training, the thing they seem most concerned about is internal theft and
associated issues. Staff welfare features nowhere on the list !
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Thanks again all - it seems I owe many people in the BackRoom a pint or two or three....

Reminds me of happier days when, in attempting to create a line of sight for a geophysical survey in S. Tunisia, I stupidly drove my Toyota 4x4 onto a sandy mound and got it stuck there !

The punishment ? Beers all round for the entire crew. Great days though!
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Toad, of Toad Hall.
Reminds me of happier days when, in attempting to create a
line of sight for a geophysical survey in S. Tunisia, I
stupidly drove my Toyota 4x4 onto a sandy mound and got
it stuck there !

Ever heard of Beja?
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
No Toad - doesn't ring any bells. Should it ?
Disciplinary action - advice sought - mark

Please let us know how she gets on, it seems that the company is a long way short of where it should be in dealing with this incidient, its only on re-reading I have noted the suspension issue. This does not alter her rights but if handled in the way described does not put the company in question in a good light.

Hopefully a review of this matter if needs be by someone at the company head office may mean the shortcomings can be rectified without too much unpleasantness.

If however it goes badly in terms of your wife being sacked I would if I were the company HR manager go sick on the day of the tribunal.

as ever

Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Mark - will let you know as soon as I know what's happened. Cheers.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Mark (RLBS)

I *really* hate to do this to you, and I apologise in advance;

I am afraid if there is a likelyhood of legal action, and here that would seem a possibility, I really cannot let in stand in the Backroom.

I will lock it for now, allowing you to take whatever details you need, but I am afraid that I shall remove it later.


Disciplinary action - advice sought - Mark (RLBS)
Ok, by popular request, and after due consideration........

no names, no way of identifying any of the parties involved. Nothing other than facts.

Even at that I shall only leave this thread for a few days.

Disciplinary action - advice sought - HF
Any developments today, V?
Disciplinary action - advice sought - PhilW
Just noticed that you said you "dropped her off". Surely in a disciplinary procedure your wife should be allowed a "friend" with her to help put her case. It also seems remarkable that she has been disciplined/suspended without being told the company policy - which is usually agreed/approved by unions/employees reps. Must be an official policy in place in a large company like this otherwise they won't have a leg to stand on.
Good luck
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Thanks all - Mark no names etc. I promise.

The plot thickens. Today she came home having been suspended again until Wednesday. She was allowed to have a work colleague present but without being rude this girl is only another sales assistant and hardly versed in employment rules. Anyway after sepaking to my wife I rang the company and spoke to the supervisor. I told her my wife was finding it all very hard to follow due to her language limitations and that I felt it would be helpful if I could attend with her and explain/ 'translate'. My request was refused but I did find out that the company were considering action for poor customer service and something she said to the supervisor after the incident. My wife was so astonished and shocked by the woman's over-reaction that she wanted to know what had been said about her and expressed a fear that the woman might claim a racist motive for my wife's actions. For reasons best known the her the supervisor (who has never liked my wife) decided this might constitute some form of misconduct and added it into the pot despite the fact that the customer hasn't claimed anything to that effect.

It is this second area we are most concerned about. We've been told that she has no real rights 'cos she's worked less than a year and unless we can proove they've been discriminatory to her (ironical eh!) we can't do anything about their decision even if this is to sack her! We can't force a reference and can't claim unfair dismissal.

Don't want to be timed out so I'll make another post now.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - mark

Having less than one years service does limit your employment rights to a degree but not in all cases.

They are wrong to say that you cannot do anything about their actions.

This is starting to smell a bit constructive possibly backed up with a degree of personal grievance. From here on in I would take careful notes of what was said by whom and when in any meetings.

In addition I would get hold of the company handbook if one can be found. The rules and procedures therein are designed to be applied to all who work for the company and they should be applied with the possible exception of those who employment is limited by terms of probabtion in an equitable fashion. Failure to follow procedures is always unhelpful at Tribunal time.

In addition there is still the fact that no contract has been issued in relation to your wifes employment which after this period of time a breach of legislation.

There is also the possibility of a rcaially motivated grudge against your wife if I read your notes correctly. This is the killer; unfair dismissal on which can be linked to reasons of race is something looked upon by legislators with a view similar to that given to those whose drink and drive and IIRC is not limited by the one years service requirement. I am sure you wife can start to recall all those racist comments made by the supervisor, manager etc.

I have found where the manager is asked to support the racist actions of a junior manager they usually do a Pontius Pilate.

Its time to go and see the CAB for initial advice and an abmulance chaser type solicitor might get you enough for half a new car or a reasonable cruise is this is packaged correctly.

Also get copies of booklets PL707 Rights to notice and reasons for dismissal, Dismissal Fair and Unfair a guide for employers PL714 from the DTI.

as ever

Disciplinary action - advice sought - teabelly
Your local citizen's advice bureau may be able to offer decent advice about employment rights. Would it be possible for your wife to tape any conversations she had about these proceedings? It would be a lot better if you could hear first hand what is going on. I don't know whether this would make it worse or better but is there any chance her employer would detail exactly what they think she has done wrong in writing? It sounds like they are just trying to intimidate her as they know she doesn't fully understand what they are doing as spoken words can always be retracted or her english can be blamed for any 'misunderstandings'.

Have you tried the uk.legal newsgroup? They usually have lots of helpful advice, in between a few nutters!
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
I've taken a little advice from a law centre and been advised that helping her to write a summary of what happened clearly might be a good idea. This I have done and she can take that on Wednesday. It points out what happened and why my wife said what she did. It also mentions the lack of training, staff manual, contract etc. My wife says she'd accept a warning for poor customer service but denies anything offensive was said or meant either during or after the incident.

I think they've got it in for her for some reason and what we'd really like to know is what else we can/should do now just in case things get worse. There is a history of unhelpfulness on the part of the supervisor to my wife but nothing in writing so it'd be hard to proove. This partially involves a medical condition my wife has received treatment for. Nothing in writing though. So here we are - a mountain being made out of a mole hill apparently and my wife at the pointed end !

In view of the subject matter I'll happily keep posting events as they unfold and would really welcome any advice. There are certain specifics that some of you may be more interested in and willing/able to advise on and rather than deal with those here I will give Mark my e.mail address so he can pass it on to any of you who may wish to contact me and discuss this in more detail.

Once again, I can't say how grateful we are for
all the help and good wishes thus far.

Thanks for your forbearance also Mark !

ps The job in itself is not the issue - it's carp and she was only doing it for the experience (ha ha!). The point is that we feel she's been very badly treated and don't want her to have problems getting another job at some time due to a bad reference.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Mark (RLBS)
Well, there you go then. You have HJ\'s backing and I already explained my position so you\'re ok here for the time being.

Also, Volvoman is happy for me to pass on his e-mail address for those people who might wish to help but don\'t wish to do so in an open forum.

Therefore, anyone who wishes may send me an e-mail which I will forward to Volvoman.

This is a limited offer, since as you all know I am not normally this nice and prefer censoring you all and ruining your fun. But panic not, normal service will be resumed in the near future !!
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Hugo {P}
This is a limited offer, since as you all know I
am not normally this nice and prefer censoring you all and
ruining your fun. But panic not, normal service will be resumed
in the near future !!


Thank goodness for that - I wondered what the world was coming to!!! :-)

Disciplinary action - advice sought - Hugo {P}

Many thanks for your e mail, and thanks to you too Mark the mod for forwarding my e mail adress to V as requested.

I have had a look through the thread and all the points raised are good ones.

My years as a Trade Union Representative at my current employer has taught me the following:

Your good lady appears to be subject to the company's disciplinary procedure. Her employer would be very well advised to grant her the following. If they do not then a case for wrongful dismissal (through a county court as a two year minimum service is required for unfair dismissal) would be very difficult for them to defend. That is of course assuming that it gets that far.

A clear understanding of her employer's disciplinary procedure and the right to have this explained to her at the time of the hearing. If she has not been adequately prepared for this then she can argue that the disciplinary procedure was not fairly applied in this case. It is good practise in accordance with ACAS guidelines to ensure that this procedure is captured in writing and is available for any employee to view as and when necessary.

The ACAS literature states that every reasonable effort to avoid invoking the disciplinary procedure should be taken by all parties concerned. In your wife's case, an informal chat to hear her side of the story would probably suffice, together with friendly advice on how to handle difficult customers in the future. Also any issues your wife may have with her jub could be ironed out at this stage. If this sorts the problem out GREAT!

Her employer should have offered her the opportunity to be accompanied by a colleague of her choice, or a TU or Works Council Rep if appropriate. If they cannot demonstrate that this was done, then again, defending a claim in court will be an absolute nightmare for them.

Her employer should inform her of the nature of her conduct that constitutes either 'misconduct' or 'gross misconduct'. This should be clear from the outset and provided in writing so that they cannot dream up extra offences if she successfully defends herself against this.

Misconduct is behaviour which is deemed necessary by her employer to warrent a warning of a greater or lesser degree of severity (ranging from verbal to final written warning - I'll explain later). Misconduct may be continued poor timekeeping, taking sikkies or failing to carry out part of her job despite repeated requests and 'councelling'. This may constitute a verbal or even written warning after a first offence, depending on severity.

Gross misconduct is often deemed as behaviour that would irepperably damage the working relationship between an employer and the employee, and the employer may dismiss. I'm afraid your wife may have a problem here - allegadely being rude to a customer would be an example, as it can severely tarnish the good name of the store. Other examples include fraud, theft or assault on a colleague depending on mitigating curcumstances.

[A colleague of mine was disciplined a few years ago for bringing our employer into disrepute when he allowed a work experience schoolboy to take home a marshall arts star he had helped fasion out of scrap components, purely because the young lad was bored stiff. He was lucky to get away with a final written warning on the basis that he was very good at his job, there were extenuating circumstances wrt the event, and he undertook to seek help in modifying his beaviour drastically. He still works for us and has matured beyond recognition.]

The disciplinary procedure, if there is one, may include such examples, but these examples are not exhaustive.

Your wife should also be given every opportunity to defend herself, tell her side of the story and call upon any witnesses that may help her case.

In addition, your wife would be well advised to include mitigating circumstances, such as she was not given adequate training (if this is appropriate to the alleged misconduct). The company may have training records to counter argue this, but somehow I very much doubt it!

Finally the company should decide what action to take. If they are sensible, they may simply recommend 'No disciplinary action at this stage and further customer training. I hope they do.

The hearing should then be drawn to a close. Your wife should be given every opportunity to appeal against the decision, even if it is instant dismissal. If she feels she has been unfairly treated, I strongly suggest that she does. If no formal appeal procedure is drawn up (as I suspect) then she should enquire as to what this is and follow it. If she is not given this information, then a letter outlining her appeal and objections should be adressed to the level above that who dealt with her disciplinary hearingl requesting a response within 7 days (calendar not working days).

If this is unsuccessful then the next step depends on whether she has been dismissed or just disciplined.

If she has lost her job over this then she has a number of options depending on whether she can claim either race or sex discrimination, or unfair or wrongful dismissal.

If the race or sex discrimination applies, she can apply to an Industrial Tribunal for reinstatement or compensation or both, no matter how long she has been employed by the store. If the the employer have just been sloppy or have just taken a disliking to her, the trinunal may not hear her case. However, she could have a case for wrongful dismissal in a county court, which would be strengthened by the employer's inability to handle a diciplinary in a professional manner, she needn't necessarily gain the services of a solicitor for this. She can represent herself and the court should be patient with her over this.

If she is still working for the company and just received a warning, she should pursue this at the nest highest level until she has exhausted all the levels that are prepared to listen toe her. She should then register the fact that she does not agree with the decision by registered post letter to the appropriate person at the HQ. That way she has a record of events and her objections should this issue detrement her future treatment in any way.


Explanation notes:

order of merit for warnings are typically: Informal chat - not recorded on personell file, Formal Verbal warning, Formal Written Warning, Final Written Warning, Dismissal - all recorded on P file. Warnings are usually live for 12 months from date of issue depending on policy. After this they are effectively 'spent'. Hence another incident of a different nauture would not compound the process. However if an employee repeated an 'offence' for which he had a 'spent' warning this may be taken into account when deciding to give either a verbal or written warning.

I talk about Good Practise and use the word 'Should'. There are few legal requirements for any company to stick to a procedure, however as an experienced TU rep, I can tell you that Maveric behaviour is just ripe for the picking!!!! I have successfully defended countless members from idiot managers who just seem to stich thenselves up every time by not sticking to the rulebook. If the store does not have a rulebook, the Tribunal or County Court WILL wipe the floor with them!

Best of Luck!

Let Mark the Mod know if you want a phone no.

Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Thanks Hugo and others. Hugo, my eyes are falling out right now but I will contact you again by e.mail 1st then by phone if that's OK. It's really good of you to offer your advice. I only wish she had joined a union in the 1st place!

Thanks again BackRomers, Hj and Mark !
Disciplinary action - advice sought - J Bonington Jagworth
"..the Tribunal or County Court WILL wipe the floor with them!"

Without wishing more stress on Mrs VM, it might be no bad thing if they did. It doesn't sound like a terribly pleasant working atmosphere - I know it's not germane to the argument, but does she want to keep the job?

Good luck, anyway, VM, and do keep us posted...
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Dan J
Have been travelling from Cheshire down to London over the last few hours and have only just come back on again. Am very keen to see V's wife get justice here but am also over the moon that both HJ and Mark have allowed this thread to continue. I'd been expecting to be putting the original thread plus new postings on my own webspace to allow it to continue out of my own interest and that of many others here who clearly either want to help or went everything worked out for V's wife.

I know some of those here were not around for the forum prior to this one and I know, whilst those who were shed the odd tear for the old forum - myself included, none of us would want to return to the "bandit country" and uncontrolled threads and postings of some of the less desirable regulars. But on the same score some level of colloquialism really brings this place and the more regular contributors together. I know I don't visit here as much as I used to or I would like for various reasons but I can't help but feel that this place is almost like a friendly "local" where I can pop into and there'll always be someone familiar and also new people to meet, chatting about my favourite topic - motoring! It is of course, nice to see the odd posting like this coming through as well where someone genuinely requires some help on an important issue - like this one, and there are a multitude of fantastic people on here only too happy to help. It'd be a sad place if they weren't able to at times like this.

I would help too, if I could, Volvoman - but unless your wife has a 1.3 Maestro that she's having an issue with unfortunately I'm unable to :)

All the best to you and I hope you resolve this situation with the least upset.

Am I getting soppy in my old age?!

Dan J
Disciplinary action - advice sought - HF
Your old age, Dan - lol!!!!
Disciplinary action - advice sought - eMBe {P}
Some of you will recall that I have said previously that I know many people from ethnic minorities. The experience of volvoman's wife is quite common to them.

A common problem they face is that of imperfect knowledge of colloquial English which leads to misunderstandings. Another source of problems is the cultural difference in tone of voice when politely questioning something. Because most Brits do not appreciate these difficulties, nor do they wish to sympathise with them, and so react either in whispering campaigns or in an overt aggressive way. There is also the feeling that these farangs are taking over the country and our jobs with it.

In volvoman's case, it just seems amazing that:
1. the requirement to pack bags only came to light after nearly 1 year's service.
2. there seems to be no formal paperwork.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
MB - you couldn't have summed up her problem better. Wish I could have said it like that the many times I've tried to explain what happened to people today. Mind if I borrow your words ??

Thanks for all the help/advice thus far everyone.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - eMBe {P}
volvoman - by all means borrow "my" words.

I recently heard of a case of a "Thai" origin woman, married to an Englishman, who had problems at work - simply because the way she raised her eyebrows, when trying to understand a question, led to her being accused of trying to look too clever!

Just thank your lucky stars that this forum is "run" by HJ/Mark(RLBS) both of whom are married to so called "foreigners". Anywhere else, and you might have got no sympathy and given the cold shoulder. Best of luck.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - No Do$h
V M.
I've kept out of this one so far as I really have nothing constructive to offer.

Just a note to wish you and your good lady all the best in this one. FWIW I hope the employer in question gets a rough ride.

No Dosh
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Toad, of Toad Hall.
I haven\'t got anything constructive to offer either but the fact that I noticed nobody had/or was offered the service of bag packing in [the supermarket I visited] last night suggests there is much more to this than meets the eye.

Either the supermarket want to see the back of VM\'s missus for reasons unknown and have made up a trumped up \'charge\' to remove her or the \'offence\' was far worse than failing to offer to pack a bag.

There\'s missing information here and I can\'t wait to find out what it is.
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - volvoman
Toad the company is not the one you mentioned and I don't think any names here are a good idea.
Apparently it is my wife's employers' policy for all bags to be packed but she didn't know this and hasn't ever received any proper customer service training.

The allegations are poor customer service and possible racist motives on the part of my wife because the customer concerned was of a different ethnic origin.
We believe there are other issues involved here but I can't say what here.

Thanks everyone for all the help/support. Esp. Hugo. Will keep you informed.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Toad, of Toad Hall.
Toad the company is not the one you mentioned and I
don't think any names here are a good idea.

I agree, no names. But policy or not this is such an extreme reaction a failure to bag pack seems unlikely to be the sole cause.
The allegations are poor customer service and possible racist motives on
the part of my wife

If there really was a racist element I guess that would explain the over the top reaction. Even so is it really likely that Mrs. VolvoMan would behave in such a way?

Good luck!
These are my own opinions, and not necessarily those of all Toads.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Mark (RLBS)
Your point is well taken Toad, but please don't use company names within this thread.

Thank you.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - Galaxy

I can't really add anything to the excellent and informative advice that has already been given by other members of the Back Room.

The only comment that I can make is, from my own personal experience, when I have been shopping in various big name supermakets, is that it is certainly NOT regular practice to pack customers bags for them. The only time I can ever remember this being done for me was when a stores computer and till system went down and we were all left standing at the check-outs for half an hour. They put extra staff at these points to clear the backlog.

Good luck, I do hope that the situation can be resolved satisfactorily for your wife with the company concerned.
Disciplinary action - advice sought - DavidHM
I'm off to the supermarket now. The one I go to has excellent staff, friendly, helpful, honest, even the ones who don't speak English very well are obviously well trained in customer service. Even so, I doubt very much that I'm going to get my bag packed - nor do I need to, because I'll get out of there quicker if I pack it myself and the checkout operator scans things on the till.

Sorry that I can't offer more help on the employment law issues but as I understand it a contract of employment is a legal requirement, it sounds to me as though the racist motive is on the part of your wife's employer, and you can't fire someone for not doing a job they haven't been trained for. At most, this sounds like a verbal warning incident to me, unless that stage has already been passed.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Mark - I can't access the old 'temporary' thread so am starting a new 'temporary' thread. I promise to keep it brief and keep it clean. Thanks.

BTW Hugo's been great and I've a couple of suggestions for the BackRoom but you'll all have to wait until I get my head back together.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Well folks - Mrs V went to her meeting today with a statement explaining her actions and asking to be given copies of everything and written details of the procedures she was being subjected to. She told themthe questions were difficult to answer and it was all very stressful and that she wanted to read her statement but they refused to let her and started bombarding her with more questions. Eventually she was allowed to read the statement and the mood changed a little.

Suddenly she was told she could have copies of everything and these were given to her at the end of the meeting. She was asked why she hadn't requested these before but how on earth could she be expected to know what she was entitled to ask for until she had read what she was entitled to be given but hadn't been (chicken & egg) ?

Anyway she toook away the paperwork and we've now had chance to look at it. To say it's amateurish is being generous. Hand written, illegible in places, no page numbers, incorrect/no punctuation etc. etc.

We then found a number of inaccuracies and statements attributed to my wife which she denies. We have prepared another statement for the final meeting tomorrow when she will know her fate. She has been signed off by our GP with acute stress and will attend the meeting only to present the statement and get the decision. She doesn't feel able to deal with more interrogation. She has refuted the allegations of racist remarks and pointed out how badly she has been treated. She has stated she feels discriminated against by the company and their procedures which have precluded her from defending herself properly. She has highlighted the total lack of support, training and welfare as well as flawed procedures. She has also taken the opportunity to hint at ulterior motives by mentioning previous unacceptable behaviour on the part of 2 key staff involved in the proceedings. She has confirmed she will appeal against any decision she disagrees with.

Should be lively tomorrow
so I hope you can all tune in for the next installment.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - PhilW
i am following this with interest since I find it incredible that what I assumed to be a large firm (am I wrong in assuming this?) should have such a haphazard, informal and as you say amateurish disciplinary procedure. I work for a relatively small establishment (50 ish employees) yet we all have copies of a formal written disciplinary (and complaints)procedure which gives very precise directions to employer and employees with regard to how it is carried out. It was agreed between 'ees and 'ers after consultation with our Unions/associations. surely your wife's firm should have one and she should be aware of it before ANY hearings take place unless gross misconduct is involved - or do I have an enlightened and reasonable employer? I hadn't realised until now!
good luck
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Just brought Mrs V. home.
She gave her second statement and stuck to her guns. They tried to question her more but she refused to comment. The mood changed a bit after they'd read it and we think a few feathers were ruffled. Suddenly they seemed more understanding (can't think why !) and conciliatory.

They agreed she'd never been racist but cited her poor customer service. Noted mitigating factors but skirted round the issues re. lack of contract, flawed procedures etc. (probably wanted her to forget about all that but they've got a shock coming !). In the end they gave her a final written warning for poor service and said they'd give her more training.
They said they'd send their decision in writing and she'd be able to appeal (not half !!).

She's inclided to appeal and invoke the grievance procedures but we'll take advice before doing so.

For reasons I can't go into this has been a particular ordeal for her and I'm so proud !

She stuck to her guns and came through pretty much on her own ! I've told her this is the best training she'll ever get from that company and to learn from it. I hope it will give her more self confidence but not so much that she dumps me for some bronzed flashy geezer in a tight suit !

Anyway we're going to enjoy the moment for now and reflect on just how uncomfortable life is right now for those involved in all of this.

Will keep you all informed as things happen and thanks for being there all !!

Note from Mrs V.

thank you all so much for your help and support. It has been really hard for me to do this! Now I know why Mr. V spends so much time here! I promis I will not swap him for anyone!x
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - THe Growler
Mr V, I am sorry Mrs V is being put thru all this in this day and age, from the accounts of proceedings so far as described by you and as an HR pro of many years I am very surprised your lady appears to have sat through the hearing you describe alone and without a witness of her/your choice present.

Am I right?
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Hi Growler. My wife had to have a staff memeber with her. She chose the only person she felt she could trust - her young colleague at the next till when it happened. When we realised how badly it was being handled I asked if I could be present at the next meeting to 'translate' both ways and they said no. Might have been better for them if they'd said yes !

Thanks for your support!
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Ian (Cape Town)
Interesting point from The Growler...
Does UK Law give anybody in Mrs V's situation the right to have a witness/assistant present?
I know in the old days (80s) another member of staff was allowed to be there to assist/make sure everything went smoothly.
I know here, you have the right to anybody - lawyer/wife/cousin/father/priest etc to be around if you choose so.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - THe Growler
Well I've wrestled with a good many countries' labour laws and my understanding was that any employee subject to a grievance or disciplinary hearing had the right to have a person of their choice present. Of course a peer may help but he/she is likely to be intimidated or nervous for very obvious reasons and thus not a lot of help.

I am not going to be so presumptuous as to give advice in this situation but let me just say if it was my wife in the same position as yours I would have had my legal representative present, having engaged him at the very outset of this affair and would have refused to cooperate until the management agreed. Looking over the story so far, albeit going only on what has been posted, this appears to me to be a disgraceful episode.

This employer needs to be taught how to run a human resources policy by the sound of it and I hope you win. I'm sure you will.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
You're right Growler but we only really found out how amateurish and pathetic it all was on Wednesday when we got the notes from the meetings and copies from the staff manual my wife had never seen before.

I suspected it was a joke on Monday and got some legal advice but was told we had no right to have anyone external present. If they lied to us about that also the prospects for them look even bleaker than it does from my lounge windows through which I can see grey, grey skies and more falling snow !

Take care.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Ian (Cape Town)
Unfortunately your post is ambiguous:
"got some legal advice but was told we had no right to have anyone external present."
Who told you? Legal advisor or the company?
I'd look at the legal side of this...
Were the company's actions in contravention of recognised labour and employment law?

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Both Ian. The advisor said the company's internal policies were paramount at that stage and the company said the same when they refused my offer to assist.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
ps. only exception was for minors under 18 who could have a parent/ guardian present.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - THe Growler
Volvoman I'm sorry, this makes me angry. "No right"! to have anyone external present? Who are these people?

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - No Do$h
Volvoman I'm sorry, this makes me angry. "No right"! to have
anyone external present? Who are these people?

Nameless, faceless and above all, clueless from what I've seen so far.

Not only do we have somewhat twisted views of what consitutes customer service in this country, we also seem to have no grasp of how to valuing hard-working employees. As for actually training staff, don't get me started....
No Dosh ** Quick, talk motoring, Mark's coming! **
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Maz
>>Nameless, faceless and above all, clueless from what I've seen so far.

Agreed No Dosh. What can I add?

This thread is, uniquely, a bit of a tear jerker. I haven't wept like this since that poor couple chose the Land Rover on Tuesday. :-)

Volvoman, may I wish you both all the best in your battle against the corporate ineptitude, rampant spite and vile intolerance on display.

I am sure many have read the story and been moved without posting and they, like me, are awaiting a final verdict on whether justice prevails.

The best of luck.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - cockle {P}
Volvoman, like many others here I wish Mrs V all the best.

Unfortunately this type of tale is all too familiar in my experience, this country seems to be riddled with a great number of junior and middle managers who are largely incompetent. Sadly the likes of David Brent in 'The Office' are so common it is painful, I must admit it is the main reason that I don't find the programme that funny - it is far too close to the truth. One day we will wake up and realise that everyone is entitled to be treated fairly and with respect, whatever their position in life or society. If people are treated with lack of respect then companies should not be surprised that the employees will have a lack of respect for the company in return. I have had the experience of visiting hundreds of offices, shops and factories over the years and how some of them have still got employees is beyond me, I'm sure the dole queue would be better than many workplaces, they must just keep going on the good old fashioned work ethic demonstrated by their employees.

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Ian (Cape Town)
I would check whether they are operating within recognised labour-law on this one.
(Try the CAB, or local dept of labour)
It's all very well having an internal policy, but if it against the law, you can have any action struck off, AND they can do nothing about it. (double jeopardy).
Does Mrs V have the right to a translator?
I'm sure that, as well, is a right under the law.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - BrianW
Glad things seem to be getting sorted out.
Having been in a similar situation ten years ago I know how nerve-wracking it can be.
If Mrs V in the right, and that's how it sounds, stick to your guns.
Hope the ultimate outcome is satisfactory.

Still learning (I hope)
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Dan J
Well done the pair of you for turning what has no doubt been a dreadful experience into something positive. No doubt Mrs V will not be viewing her current employment as a long term prospect but this experience will be highly beneficial should a similar situation ever occur again and maybe would help to resolve such ridiculousness earlier on it it's stages. Let's keep fingers crossed that never happens though!

Someone not made of as stern disposition or not as well informed may have let the company/people concerned get away with this, putting themselves on the road to further problems and maybe even dismissal. Well done to you and her for standing up to all of this.
I promis
I will not swap him for anyone!x

C'mon Volvoman, admit it, you wrote that last sentence yourself didn't you! :)

All the best to the pair of you - I am keeping a virtual bottle of champers on ice for the imminent successful outcome of this.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Mark (RLBS)

I realise that you have difficulties with long threads, hence the reason I have allowed two. When you are comfortable that this matter has run its course, please let me know so that I can put them together and lock them.

No hurry, but let me know when.

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
>> Volvoman,
I realise that you have difficulties with long threads...

Sounds like a very painful condition Mark ! :-)

Will let you know. Thanks again !
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Just hope she means it Dan !

Thanks for your support.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - SteveH42
In the end they gave her a final written warning for poor
service and said they'd give her more training.

I'm not totally sure, but I believe they can only give a final warning after having previously given a verbal warning. I'm fairly sure you cannot go immediately to a final warning other than for serious offences.

One thing I am sure of is that you have a right to have a witness present whenever anything is being put on your file. I don't know the scope of who this can be, but I can see no reason why it cannot be someone outside the company. You also have to sign anything of this nature to say you agree with the facts it gives etc - make sure she doesn't do so.
They said they'd send their decision in writing and she'd be
able to appeal (not half !!).

Again, I believe this has to be presented in front of a witness and signed by all parties.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Micky
"> ..... lack of contract..<"

">The employer by law has to give an employee a "statement" of employment, within 2 months of the employee starting work.

This covers what would normally be in a Contract of Employment, however this is not a contract between the employer and the employee.

If there is a dispute and the employer has not given the employee a contract, the court may use the terms in the statement to decide the terms of employment. <"

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - PhilW
can only access this discussion at night when home but still amazed at this firms incompetence and unfairness in dealing with what should be a relatively minor matter and the total lack of consideration towards an employee for what is (at worst) a matter which could be dealt with by a bit of advice and kind words. Others have said that final warnings cannot be given in this case - I think this is correct. In the first instance even if it was proved that your wife was at fault (doubtful!) she should be told of her "misdemeanor", warned as to her behaviour(!) and given by this a verbal warning but also time to "mend her ways"(!). If she continued to "misbehave" she can be given a first written warning and if she still persisted a second verbal warning, then dismissal. This all assumes she was guilty in the first place!
I think she should also have had a contract of employment laying down duties and how they are expected to be carried out within 13 weeks of employment. This should have a written disciplinary procedure unless there are fewer than 20 employees (check this but I am fairly sure)(PL714 book Dfee)
Acas publish a very useful booklet on Disciplinary Procedures in the Workplace - available to read on the website at


I would be interested to know whether you can find any of the recommendations that your wife's employers have fulfilled - it's quite a challenge!
Hope you are both surviving the undoubted and unwelcome stress, make them pay for their incompetence! You will win -
And just remember "They're all b**tards!"
Good luck to you both
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - PhilW
"If she continued to "misbehave" she can be given a first written warning and if she still persisted a second verbal warning, then dismissal".

sorry, this should read "a second WRITTEN warning"
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Alfafan {P}
Mr & Mrs V
Can't contribute any more to all the excellent advice given so far, but

"Non illegitimae carborundum"

I think that's right.

Good luck to you both
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - THe Growler

What I don't like here is the term "final written warning". Many years since I practised in UK but my understanding is that labour law is rigorous and clear as to proper procedure. Here in our often maligned less developed country it is extremely specific on these matters.

The term "final" to me is implicit that some form of due process has been pursued up to this point. I haven't got from anything I read here this has in fact been the case.

"Due process" is a concept which has to be followed in these matters, and failure to do this alone is grounds for complaint EVEN if the employee is the guilty party. I'm not hearing it. Again I cannot help but think right is on your side and this should have been sorted out simply and equitably at the start.

I have managed situations not unlike this and I would, having first established the veracity of the complaint, and assuming it involves an employee in hitherto good standing, and it can clearly be said she was the cause of the problem, let her go with a verbal warning, perhaps a bit of retraining, and would have dealt with the customer via a mollifying letter, or a gift voucher or something. Unless the affair was seriously unpleasant or she had insulted the customer in some way, I wouldn't even put a note on file. These things happen.

If she was a habitual upsetter of customers that would be something else and I would review whether or not she was in the right position in my organisation.

If it all turned out to be a misunderstanding and nobody could really pin where the right and wrong lay, then we have an upset customer. Right, let me deal with that and put him/her to rights. Better I take ownership of the problem regardless of who's at fault than have a disgruntled customer walking around.

I can't believe a manager would make such a meal of something like this.

Yes, I'm, rabbiting on I'm sorry but I have been privileged to manage top class HR teams and I can't believe anything like this could get this far. My last employee relations manager Gigi would have sorted this whole thing out in a jiffy, with a note in my in-tray saying "boss this happened yesterday and this is what we did. Just FYI". Whether or not your wide is the offending part or not is irrelevant.

There are always three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth as they say, it doesn't matter. This affair could have been resolved at source by first line management without much fuss and certainly no need to beat people over the head with the Personnel Manual and consume time and energy which should begoing into running the business. I used to teach my people that every disgruntled customer was a great opportunity to show good service and turn the incident into customer loyalty.

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - mark
I agree with Growler here, I cannot see how this has reached the final warning stage given what we have been told. The final warning is always issued after whatever number of non final warnings have been issued previously.

I have just finished drafting a personnel handbook for a national company and in this case (as with all the others I have ever designed) there are a number of warnings prior to the final one. This does assume offences have been graded and linked to potential outcomes, usually minor offences = a chat, several minor offences = 1st warning, theft or murder = dismissal and so on.

I would look in this instance at the procedures you have obtained from the company, under what circumstances can a warning of this type be issued and have these been met or complied with. I suspect you will find a hole large enough to drive the proverbial through.

as ever

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Galaxy

I have to say that I have to agree with both THe Growler and Mark on this.

How on earth can you be given a "Final Written Warning" if you've never been given any form of warning before? Where I work they would have to give you (as stated in the staff handbook) several written warnings before a final one, but, even before this, several verbal warnings, the first few, no doubt, in practice, would not even be recorded.

Sounds to me as if this company are making it up as they go along! They don't seem to have any written down conditions of service, or, if they do, nobody there seems to have copies of them.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - Flat in Fifth
I've kept away from this thread deliberately for a number of reasons; this is despite years of experience of disciplinary procedures in various employment situations. This includes presiding on appeal hearings.

My experience here tells me that you need to hear all sides of the situation in a totally objective way.

However with all due respect to V, Mrs V and all who have made their generally technically correct input on this issue only one side is being presented and we should not forget that.

"How on earth can you be given a "Final Written Warning" if you've never been given any form of warning before?"

Refer to the very first post on the earlier thread

quote "and has had no other significant problems in this time"

Comment; so there have been some problems then.

On a technical point:
There is precedent where you can go straight to Final Written Warning but you have to have a damn good reason and fully documented why the lesser/greater disciplinary measures are not appropriate.

With that point I will withdraw.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - THe Growler
If it was my wife and on the basis of what I am hearing I would get my lawyer to challenge the whole thing from the "due process" angle. You'll win.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
To clarify just for you FIF. My wife has had no other warnings other than being told off for wearing the wrong trousers but no formal action was taken about this.

However she has had a history of problems with the individual from whom the claims of racism emanated after she interviewed my wife about the incident and who escalated the whole affair.

Previously this person has:

- Reprimanded my wife in front of other staff for going to the toilet in work hours. My wife was told she wasn't allowed to leave the shop floor for that purpose and should do it during her 1 hour lunch break.

- Consistently rostered her to have to sit at the till for up to 3 1/2 hours at a time despite having been told many times that my wife had a medical condition which had required treatment and made this very uncomfortable.

- Told her she didn't think she 'could cope with the job' after my wife asked if they could reduce her hours slightly so she could spend a bit more time with our son with special needs.

- Has been rude and patronising to her on numerous other occasions for no reason.

FIF asks himself "why didn't they do something about all that then ?"

Because she just wanted a quiet life, to get on with her first proper job in the UK, keep her head down, get some useful experience for a year with what she thought was a good company (ha ha) and not become embroiled in the sort of highly distressing experience we're now having to go through.

Clear enough ?

Thanks again BackRoomers!
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - No Do$h

Having just read your last post (31/01 @ 14:31) I think I know the company in question. My ex-wife worked there for them for a short period and had exactly the same discussions regarding use of the toilet (clear breach of Health and Safety if it causes discomfort/harm to the individual), ditto the time spent on the till.

No wonder their shares went south.....

Still got various digits and appendages crossed for your both.

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Just read my last post back and it comes across as a bit 'snappy'. That was unintentional so please put it down to lack of sleep as no offence was meant.
Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - mark
Hello Again Volvoman

From the incidents you have outlined this would appear to be a history of victimisation and harrassment towards Mrs V. A history of this in addition to the shoddily applied disciplinary procedures make the whole thing very constructive in outlook, that is deliberately designed to get your wife to throw in the towel and walk away.

As I said before If I were the HR manager who had to defend these actions I would be sick on the day of the hearing.

as ever

Disciplinary Action II - The Sequel - volvoman
Hi Mark - and thanks for your input once again.

We feel that this is the real agenda here and the incident on Friday was an opportunity for a certain person to get some brownie points with HQ and do the dirty on my wife.

Anyway have spoken the a very helpful lady from the local law centre and been advised to appeal against the decision and then consider invoking the grievance procedures in respect of all the 'naughty' stuff done to my wife during and prior to this episode.

Not sure if Mrs V is ever gonna be happy working there but she will have to be for a period if she wants to follow the internal grievance route.

The alternative is to take matters external but we're not sure what would be best so would appreciate any advice on this aspect.

We both want the thing exposed for what it was and all the procedural errors to be highlighted so those responsible are taken to task.

We haven't had chance or energy to search the various links and read up on this but would love to know what our options are now and what would be best to do.

Any thoughts ?

Cheers all.


Value my car