They had been friends, but then fell out. And Hell seems to have no fury like two female friends who disagree. Because they both worked together, the problem unfortunately came to work with them. Cheryl and Susan had a very tense relationship for several months before Susan resigned. In the last week or so before she left, the two had some sort of fairly serious disagreement. Two days after Susan left Cheryl raised a grievance about Susan.
Where employees have a concern about aspects of the workplace, they can raise a grievance to give the employer the opportunity to explore it and try to resolve mattes. Employers are under a duty to consider grievances properly and a failure to do so may be grounds for constructive unfair dismissal.
From the start, this was a futile exercise. Cheryl claimed all sort of things (mostly utter rubbish) and many going back several months. Amongst other things Cheryl alleged that Susan had accessed her Linkedin account on which Cheryl admitted she had said a number of unpleasant things about a colleague. She said that Susan was threatening to publish it to the subject of the remarks. Cheryl went on to say that she had suspected that Susan might have accessed her linked in account some seven months before.
The grievance officer asked her what she wanted to come out of the process since Susan had left the business before the grievance was lodged. Cheryl said that she felt that the company had a duty to protect her. From what was not clear, since she made no claims of stress or ill health. She also wanted the company to formally criticise Susan and refuse to provide her with a reference.
That year the company had undergone a major restructure and there had been a number of redundancies. Many of the people who might have been able to comment had gone. The company decided to focus on the most recent complaints because it was impossible to investigate further back. The grievance officer accepted that there was real tension between the two women, concluded he could do nothing more as Susan had gone.
Believe or not Cheryl appealed and came in front of me. I listened to this tale and when I investigated I found that Cheryl had made a number of extremely misleading statements. She did not draw Susan’s alleged admission about the Linkedin account to our attention at the time when Susan made it, which was when she was still employed and when we might have been able to do something about it.
It was impossible to resolve. Ultimately I upheld the grievance officer’s decision and gave advice to Cheryl that this was not the proper use of the grievance process. Indeed it seemed clear that she was on a personal mission to damage Susan’s reputation, but there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support her statements.
We have now changed the grievance process to further limit the abuse of the grievance process. The grievance process is there to explore and seek to resolve genuine concerns, but there are many abusive matters raised, wasting time and costing money. We can help you nail these cases in a variety of ways. Call us and we’ll get your HR sorted out.
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