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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46153
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I work retail company X and I have unintentionally

Customer Question

Hello,
I work for a retail company X and I have unintentionally sent an email to over 200 people revealing their email addresses visible to everyone in the e-mail. Few customers have already complained and mentioned the Data Protection Act 1998.
I would like to know what could be the consequences of my mistake and how to prevent further damage.
Thanks,
Lucia
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.
Hello how long have you worked there for and has the employer taken any action in relation to this?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
2 years. The management said they will contact the company legal department.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.
Hello, this is indeed a breach of data protection because you have revealed confidential information about others without their consent. In these circumstances if they have entrusted you with their personal details these should have been kept confidential and not disclosed without their consent. Now that the email has been sent there is not much that can be done to resolve this – the addresses are in the possession of everyone and you can't retrieve the offending email. So in the first instance it may be worth showing good customer service by emailing everyone concerned and advising them of the breach, offering your apologies. They can't really sue you unless they have suffered losses which would be unlikely, so I wouldn't worry about this too much.
However the employer could still look to discipline you as this is an act of misconduct. If you have less than 2 years service they can dismiss you for any reason and do not have to justify it so your rights are rather limited. If you have more than 2 years service then they will have to take you though a fair disciplinary procedure and can only dismiss if they can show this was gross misconduct.
This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps an employer much take to follow a fair procedure, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 46153
Experience: Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
Ben Jones and other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Good morning,thank you for the answer. I will have to discuss the situation with my employer, but I am glad that I will most likely not be facing any legal charges due to the incident.Regards,Lucia
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.
You are welcome. Also as promised I will give you some details of what a disciplinary procedure should look like so you know what to expect.
Misconduct is a common reason for taking disciplinary action against an employee. It could be due either to a single serious act of misconduct or a series of less serious acts over a period of time.
In order to justify that disciplinary action on grounds of misconduct was fair, the law requires that the employer:
• Conducts a reasonable investigation;
• Follows a fair disciplinary procedure; and
• Shows they had reasonable grounds to believe the employee was guilty.
In addition, the employer is expected to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. Altogether, it means that a disciplinary procedure should be conducted as follows:
1. Investigation - a reasonable investigation is needed. What is reasonable depends entirely on the circumstances and especially the nature and seriousness of the allegations. The more serious these are, the more detailed the investigation needs to be.
2. Disciplinary hearing - if the investigation provides sufficient evidence of misconduct, the employee may be invited to attend a formal disciplinary hearing. They must be given prior notice of the hearing, including details of the allegations, allowing them time to prepare. They have the legal right to be accompanied at the hearing but only by a trade union representative or a colleague.
3. Decision and penalty - following the disciplinary, if the employer holds a genuine belief that the employee was guilty, then they can go ahead and formally sanction them. When deciding on the appropriate penalty, the employer should consider the nature and seriousness of the offence and the employee's disciplinary record. Unless the offence was one of gross misconduct, ACAS recommends that the employee should be issued with a written warning.
In summary, an employer is not expected to prove that the alleged misconduct had definitely occurred. Disciplinary action will be fair if the employer can show that it had conducted a reasonable investigation, followed a fair procedure and held a genuine belief that the employee was guilty. Finally, it must show that the penalty was a reasonable action to take in the circumstances and one that a reasonable employer would have taken.
If there are any doubts about any of the above and there is belief or evidence that the employer has not satisfied these requirements, an appeal can be submitted to the employer immediately after the disciplinary outcome. If the disciplinary results in dismissal then a claim for unfair dismissal can be made in the employment tribunal. There are two requirements to claim: the employee must have at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer and the claim must be made within 3 months of the date of dismissal.

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