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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46169
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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My wife has been working for a leading supermarket chain store

Resolved Question:

My wife has been working for a leading supermarket chain store (started 4 weeks ago) and has been accused of racism. The problem had occurred after a very brief conversation between my wife who is South Africa nationality (left when she was 6 years old to live in Jersey) and another work colleague who is from South Africa of different ethnic background. The colleague has written a letter to say that my wife was making racist remarks directed at her which is totally untrue. My wife has been subjected to other members of staff accusing her of racism shortly after the event and highlighted the situation to management. Management have conducted multiple interviews with her and I have seen the paperwork which looks wrong to me, as the dates are not correct, and as a result of my wife complaining she has been suspended for her protection, whilst an investigation takes place. What worries me is I have noticed how staff at the supermarket have been towards me and she has also told me how she has been accused of racism from other members of staff whilst working. Whilst I have shopped there for 1.5 years I am very concerned as people that generally say hello and now looking at me like I have done something wrong plus my wife left South Africa when she was 6 years and is more Jersey than any other nationality plus I am of different ethnic background. The company I feel have not tried to contain the situation and have freely allowed the colleague to tell other members of staff a pack of lies. My wife has been subjected to abuse and accusation that are not true and I am worried about her health as she was in a coma last year and this is the first job she has had since the accident. It has taken me many months to get her confidence back. Can you please provide advice?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. What are you hoping to achieve in this situation?

Customer:

I am not sure at this point.

Customer:

I am concerned about my wife and I wish to support her but I also do not think the supermarket has helped her or dealt with the situation in the correct manner. We are not in a great financial situation and she needs to work I am very concerned about her reputation.

Ben Jones :

Do you think her job is at risk as a result?

Customer:

I believe so

Customer:

she has been suspended on full pay

Customer:

She is under a great amount of stress and I am worried about her health because of this. She has been complaining about being tired and feeling depressed and she does not look well. I have no doubt this is taking a toll on her and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I was considering confronting the supermarket and asking why they left it 2 weeks to then suspend her. It hits a nerve with me personally not only because she is my wife but because I have no doubt she is not a racist. They told her she cannot seek legal advice which makes me suspicious of their intentions.

Ben Jones :

ok thanks let me get my response ready please

Ben Jones :

If she has been continuously employed at her place of work for less than 2 years then her employment rights will unfortunately be somewhat limited. Most importantly, she will not be protected against unfair dismissal. This means that her employer can dismiss her for more or less any reason, and without following a fair procedure, as long as their decision is not based on discriminatory grounds (i.e. because of gender, race, religion, age, a disability, sexual orientation, etc.) or because she was trying to assert any of her statutory rights (e.g. requesting maternity leave, etc.). In the event that the reason for dismissal fell within these categories, then the dismissal will either be automatically unfair, or there will be a potential discrimination claim.

If the dismissal had nothing to do with any of the above exceptions then she would not be able to challenge it and her only protection would be if she was not paid her contractual notice period, because unless she was dismissed for gross misconduct, she would be entitled to receive her contractual notice period. If she did not have a written contract in place she would be entitled to the minimum statutory notice period of 1 week. Her employer would either have to allow her to work that notice period and pay her as normal, or they will have to pay her in lieu of notice.

If she was not paid her notice period when she was due one, that would amount to wrongful dismissal (which is different to unfair dismissal) and she could make a claim in an employment tribunal to recover the pay for the notice period that she should have been given. There is a 3-month time limit from the date of dismissal to submit the claim.

Ben Jones :

Sorry, I pasted the wrong version of my answer, please ignore the above and read the following instead

Ben Jones :

If she has been continuously employed at her place of work for less than 2 years then her employment rights will unfortunately be somewhat limited. Most importantly, she will not be protected against unfair dismissal. This means that her employer can dismiss her for more or less any reason, and without following a fair procedure, as long as their decision is not based on discriminatory grounds (i.e. because of gender, race, religion, age, a disability, sexual orientation, etc.) or because she was trying to assert any of her statutory rights (e.g. requesting maternity leave, etc.). In the event that the reason for dismissal fell within these categories, then the dismissal will either be automatically unfair, or there will be a potential discrimination claim. She will only realistically be able to do anything if she can show that the way she has been treated is due to her race background and if that is the case then a potential discrimination claim may exist but it would be for her to prove that was the case.

In the meantime she could consider raising a formal grievance against the employer or the employee and this should be formally investigated and dealt with by the employer. If she is unhappy with the outcome she can appeal but after that it would be just a potential discrimination claim as mentioned above.


Customer:

Thanks for your advice Ben. We can submit a formal grievance as this is true. Can I clarify what you saying is if they do not suspend the colleague that is making the accusations then it could be a potential discrimination claim?

Ben Jones :

No, that would not be the case, there is no need to suspend everyone or anyone accused of anything. Suspension is not an indication of guilt. An employer could suspend an employee as a precautionary measure, or to remove any tension from keeping both in the office. So if one is suspended it does not mean the other has to be too

Ben Jones :

I am just due in a meeting, if you have any follow up questions please post them here and I will respond ASAP, thank you

Customer:

She has already raised the issue of false accusation and nothing has been done by the company. We will consider to pursue but I fear the damage has already been done and that there is nothing we can really do under the current law. My fear is my wife will be subject to accusations from people in the supermarket, which she will just have to just deal with. The company in my mind is not obliged under law to stop the accuser taking to other members of staff or the public about the issue which is where the damage is mostly caused. I have no doubt its time to move from this area of fear of discrimination against my wife.

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46169
Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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