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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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There, during my holidays I was at my home country (Slovakia)

Customer Question

Hi there,
during my holidays I was at my home country (Slovakia) and I have a satire conversation with my work colleagues (at that time friends) on skype and we were making racist satire jokes. We are all from diverse races. Our boss found it out and we all got warning. Me too even-though I was not working and not using company equipment. We all did statement that it was pure satire's humor and we are all different races and we are friends.
I got a letter saying this:
As you will have seen from the note Chris sent out on Friday 30th following the meeting with the team where the issue was discussed, the behaviour demonstrated contravenes our code of conduct for e-mail, applications and internet use as specified in the 7thingsmedia Staff Handbook.
We take this issue very seriously, not only for the fact that company equipment was being used for purposes that were clearly not work-related but also due to the content and tone of the exchanges which we deemed to be offensive.
As a result of Friday’s meeting we have decided that the appropriate disciplinary sanction is a written warning which will remain on your file for 12 months from and including today.
And I have answer this:
As I said the whole conversation was satire and it was not meant seriously, which was obvious from the content and context and I am responsible for myself, not for others.
I have spoken with my friend and he said as all this happened in private time, using my private device and internet, the people were not at that time my work colleagues but my private friends, this letter does not apply to me as I was not using company equipment and I was not working at that time rather in my home country, where a satire’s humour is still acceptable.
I would kindly ask to rewrite the letter, because I cannot sign something which does not apply to me as I was not working and not using company equipment and my quote was pure satire and not my life’s opinion or attitude and it is against my moral principles. I think I have a right for it.
Thank you a lot for your time,
Lubi
PS: For your information : “Whether or not this comment was made in jest, it is completely unacceptable in any work environment but particularly in 7thingsmedia, a company that fully embraces diversity.” – As matter of fact, all those in that conversation were all diverse people, which were making satire’s humour. For example: Turkish race, Slavic race, Germanic race, Black race and all were just making fun.
Do you think they have right to write me a warning?
Thanks a lot
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Hello, my name is***** am a qualified solicitor and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
since 12th august
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
and I got this warning
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
and I write then this answer:
Hi Nick,As I said the whole conversation was satire and it was not meant seriously, which was obvious from the content and context and I am responsible for myself, not for others.I have spoken with my friend and he said as all this happened in private time, using my private device and internet, the people were not at that time my work colleagues but my private friends, this letter does not apply to me as I was not using company equipment and I was not working at that time rather in my home country, where a satire’s humour is still acceptable.I would kindly ask to rewrite the letter, because I cannot sign something which does not apply to me as I was not working and not using company equipment and my quote was pure satire and not my life’s opinion or attitude and it is against my moral principles. I think I have a right for it.Thank you a lot for your time,LubiPS: For your information : “Whether or not this comment was made in jest, it is completely unacceptable in any work environment but particularly in 7thingsmedia, a company that fully embraces diversity.” – As matter of fact, all those in that conversation were all diverse people, which were making satire’s humour. For example: Turkish race, Slavic race, Germanic race, Black race and all were just making fun.From: Nick Lawson-Williams
Sent: 05 November 2015 21:07
To: ***** *****
Subject: RE: letterHi LubiDespite the fact you were on holiday, you allowed yourself to get involved in a “conversation” through Skype messaging with some of your work colleagues that we deemed inappropriate and offensive. Being on holiday does not mean you relinquish your responsibilities as a 7thingsmedia employee. You might have been using your own equipment and internet to engage in this conversation but you were messaging people who were using company IT facilities – clearly visible to our IT support provider.For your information, your contributed to the “conversation” on 5 occurrences on 28th October. The comment you made at 14:07, and quoting your words “I am racist too” is of particular concern to us. Whether or not this comment was made in jest, it is completely unacceptable in any work environment but particularly in 7thingsmedia, a company that fully embraces diversity.As such, the written warning you have received stands.Best regards
Nick
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Ben, are you still here?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Whilst I understand that the comments were made in your own private time and not using company equipment, employers can take action for behaviour outside of work if it affects the company’s reputation, offends anyone at work or in general breaches their code of conduct. I think in this case they have probably gone further than necessary because you did not do this at work, it was not made public and it was not reported by anyone at work as being offensive. Saying that, your position is a bit vulnerable because of your length of service. If you have been employed somewhere for less than 2 years you are not protected against unfair dismissal, which means that the employer can dismiss you for more or less any reason. So if you refuse to accept the warning and are being difficult about this whole thing, they could just decide to dismiss you instead and you would not be able to challenge it. So even though you do not agree with what they have said, in some ways it may be better to accept the earning and just keep your head down for a while, ensuring you do not cause any further issues. If you protest too much and they start seeing you as a trouble maker, they could just decide to dismiss you instead. So you can argue about the warning and why it was issued and ask them to amend it but if they refuse and want to stick to it, it is up to you to think whether you want to continue challenging it and risk potential dismissal, or just accept it even if it is not entirely correct and move on, keeping your job. I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok, understand but nobody was offended. We just had fun. And we are still all friends.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I think this is totally unfair... Do I do not have any right of free speech and satire's humor in this country in my private time?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
and what about value of my statement?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
I agree it is unfair and you have the right to free speech but at the same time the employer has the right to go as far as dismissal in the first 2 years of employment if they wanted to, even if all you were doing is talking to someone outside of work. As mentioned, they could use more or less any reason, subject to some limited exceptions, so as an extreme example they could dismiss you because you went to the shops yesterday – it is your right to do as you please in your own time but at the same time the employer can dismiss you for almost any reason in the first 2 years you work with them. So your statement is absolutely fine and goes directly to the point and raises a valid argument, but you just cannot force them to remove the warning or treat it any differently. Hope this clarifies?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
And can they fire my in case I will not agree with the warning?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have ask them to rewrite this part as I was not working at that time and did not use company equipment, I hope that is my right to have it written properly, do I?Part I have asked to rewrite as I was on holidays:
As you will have seen from the note Chris sent out on Friday 30th following the meeting with the team where the issue was discussed, the behaviour demonstrated contravenes our code of conduct for e-mail, applications and internet use as specified in the 7thingsmedia Staff Handbook.
We take this issue very seriously, not only for the fact that company equipment was being used for purposes that were clearly not work-related but also due to the content and tone of the exchanges which we deemed to be offensive.
As a result of Friday’s meeting we have decided that the appropriate disciplinary sanction is a written warning which will remain on your file for 12 months from and including today.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Yes as mentioned they can decide to fire you if you do not agree with the warning. You are not protected against dismissal at this stage as you have not been there for 2 years. Even if they refuse to correct the statement they have made they can still dismiss you. It would not matter that what they have said is wrong – you have the right to ask them to change it but they do not have to and they can just say – you either accept this as it is or you will get fired – they can do that. So that is why I said you should ask them to change it once but if they refuse to and stick to it as it is, then you would be best to advised to accept it even if you do not agree with it because otherwise they can decide to fire you. If your original question has been answered I would be grateful if you could please quickly rate my answer by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page - it only takes a second to do and is an important part of our process. I can still answer follow up questions afterwards if needed. Thank you
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Omg, what is this for a country? I am sorry, but this is totally ridiculous and it is not to protect normal people but just haze them.Thank you anyway
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
I understand your frustration but the law is the law and all I can do is advise you of what it can do (or not) for you. Hope this has at least clarified your legal position