Constructive Dismissal case won by former Royal British Legion employee

An employment tribunal in Southampton has found that an employee was bullied and treated unfairly by her line manager and the HR Department, and then dismissed.

Carolyn Bickerstaff told the tribunal that she had been dismissed after she raised questions about her workload. Bickerstaff also had concerns about signed blank cheques which were left in an unlocked drawer.

The tribunal ruled that Bickerstaff was constructively and unfairly dismissed by the charity because she voiced her concerns on these issues.

The tribunal was told that Bickerstaff had emailed her line manager James France in July 2015 about her concerns over her workload as another member of staff was on extended sick leave. The Tribunal found the response to be unsupportive. It could have been viewed as being told to ‘get on with it or else’.

 Not receiving any support from her line manager, Bickerstaff then emailed the charity’s HR Department. Her email was marked as confidential. She stated that she was concerned that there would be repercussions for taking her complaint over her line manager’s head. Her request for confidentiality was ignored by HR and her email was forwarded to France.

In September 2015 Bickerstaff and another colleague had a meeting with France, where he had been aggressive and confrontational, reading from a prepared document and not allowing any comment.

Bickerstaff voiced a complaint that two colleagues were spending too many hours on Facebook and not working the hours they had been contracted to work. Her complaint was dismissed by France, and Bickerstaff saw this as favouritism.

Bickerstaff was signed off work for some months on sick leave during which time HR Department asked her if she planned to raise a grievance against France. Bickerstaff said that she did, and that she did not want to work with France when she returned to her job. Despite this, France attempted to contact her while she was on sick leave.

The tribunal learned that after Bickerstaff returned to work the problems remained, particularly when she again raised concerns over the unsigned blank cheques in the unlocked drawer. Replacement line manager Lizzie O’Sullivan asked her not to return to the office or attend meetings until the matter had been resolved.

The tribunal agreed that this was clearly a response to the claimant reporting the blank cheques and the grievance which was lodged against France. He had been emailed about these issues.

Work-related stress in May 2016 caused Bickerstaff to be signed off work, and she went on to resign in December 2016. She claimed that there was no resolution in place to allow her to return to work.

The tribunal agreed that Bickerstaff had indeed suffered detriment by being excluded from the workplace. This had happened as a direct result of the email sent to her on 26 February 2016. The tribunal found that Bickerstaff had been barred from a staff meeting, was not allowed to enter her workplace, and was ostracised by those she worked with.

The tribunal found that this was a breach of mutual trust and confidence. Bickerstaff was correct in deciding that she could not return to work.

A date is to be set to decide on the amount of damages to be awarded to Bickerstaff.


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