Our client worked for her employer for over 10 years. Recently, male colleagues began to make regular sexist remarks to her. She decided to report their behaviour to her HR manager and subsequently followed the company’s grievance procedure.
After bringing the grievance, she was told that she could not do her job properly and as a result is now facing a disciplinary hearing.
Our client had genuine concerns that there have been emails between her colleagues which she has not been privy to, relating to her grievance as well as her imminent disciplinary hearing.
Subject Access Request (SAR) allows, under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, for an individual to view the information that an organisation holds about them. This is done by making what is known as a SAR and paying the appropriate fee (usually £10).
The organisation may have their own procedure for making the SAR, however the usual method is to write to the organisation with details of the information required. The person making the request should specify the time frame they require the information to cover as well as list all relevant people that the information may have been sent and/or received by. If an employer does not feel it is reasonable to respond to the request, they should explain why they believe this is the case. The request should be responded to within 40 days.
Our client’s employer responded to the SAR and within the documents is an email from our client’s manager to the HR team stating “She is difficult and has a bad attitude to work. She has brought a grievance complaining about discrimination which is something I don’t have the time for – she has to go. Preferably soon.” Our client now has evidence to support her claim for discrimination.
Our client suffered a long campaign of bullying and harassment at work. She was regularly shouted at by her manager in an open plan area and was excluded from team activities. This treatment was making our client ill. She decided that she would make a complaint and checked her employer’s grievance procedure.
She wrote to the Human Resources department setting out her grievance and asking that her complaint was fully investigated. On the next day, she received a letter from HR inviting her to a disciplinary hearing because of alleged misconduct although the client did not know what this could be about. The client felt that she was being disciplined because she had brought a grievance.
Our client was dismissed at the disciplinary hearing after five years of loyal service. She was very upset and needed to undergo medical treatment for anxiety and depression.
Having still not received a response to her grievance, she chased her former employer as she felt that providing an explanation was the least they could do in the circumstances.
A few months later our client contacted us. Our first question to her was “when were you dismissed?” Her answer was “two and a half months ago”. She said that she had been waiting in the meantime for HR to reply to her grievance.
We explained to the client that it was a good thing that she had contacted us when she did as there are very tight timescales in employment cases. The first stage is to make a notification to ACAS within 3 months of dismissal. The client was already close to this time limit. Our client explained that she thought that she had to wait for the grievance to be dealt with first. Fortunately we were able to advise her that this was not the case and that the 3 month time limit overrides any grievance or appeal process.
Our client went on to bring a successful claim against her employer for unfair dismissal.
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