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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 49858
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I volunteer in a youth organization. I have been told thats

Customer Question

I volunteer in a youth organization. I have been told that's parent has made a complaint about me. They refuse to give me the details except to say that it is not a child
Protection issue and won't be taken further. I have heard from others that this may relate to an interpersonal issue between me and another volunteer who encouraged the parent to complain. I have been given no right to reply and do not have any idea what exactly the complaint relates to. I am a teacher and having this blemish on my record may have consequences. Is this defamation?how best can I clear my name?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Has any formal action been taken against you as a result of this?

JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : No . I am told there will be no formal action. It has been suggested that I leave this particular group but that I could still be a leader elsewhere in the organization.
Ben Jones :

if you refuse to leave, what would happen?

JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : That is unclear. My immediate supervisor wants me to stay. He was bypassed in the complaint procedure as is seen as my friend. I would like to be able to discuss the issue with the complainant as I think it must be a misunderstanding.
JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : I am in no doubt that my behavior was reasonable at all times and I have many years experience in this sector. I think this at best a misunderstanding and at worst a deliberate attempt to force me out.
Ben Jones :

You cannot claim that this is defamation, not without knowing what the contents of the complaint are. Defamation is when an untrue statement is made about someone and that statement has been made sufficiently public. First of all you do not know if the statement is untrue and secondly, it is unlikely that this has been made sufficiently public as it was just made as a complaint to the organisation.

Also there is no legal requirement for the organisation to disclose details of the complaint, especially if it was made in confidence or if the complainant had asked for its contents to be kept private.

As a volunteer your legal rights will actually be rather limited unfortunately, because you will not be subject to the usual rules that employees enjoy. In that case before any formal action was taken the employer would have been required to investigate the allegations, hold a disciplinary, provide details of the allegations and offer the employee the chance to defend them. As a volunteer you are not subject to these rights, you do not have protection under employment law in that respect and as there is no contract of service in place the employer does not owe you a duty to provide you with this position and if they feel it is necessary they can remove you quite easily. It is not necessarily going to be the end result here but just be aware of that.

If you believe you know what the complaint is about and have information or evidence to disprove that then by all means supply it to the organisation and they can consider it.

JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : Fair enough. Whilst I don't know what the complaint is I do know that I acted in good faith and meant well at all times. I am now the subject of local gossip and my reputation is damaged among my peers. I guess my only course therefore is to leave altogether before my reputation is completely ruined.? I can't believe any organization has the right to treat someone this way?
Ben Jones :

but how exactly have they acted, they have decided to take no further action, they may have suggested a course of action but have not take any formal steps in that respect

JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : I would like to request a meeting with the committee who oversees the volunteers in order to defend my character. Is this wise?
Ben Jones :

you certainly can, they do not have to hold such a meeting, but you have little to lose by asking

JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : Sounds like you think I am overreacting. This is very upsetting and has shown me that anyone can decide to throw mud and some is likely to stick. You may not believe it but I really didn't do anything wrong. It tells me that if a really serious false allegation were made it would be very difficult to deal with. I really can't be part of the organization anymore as the risk to my career etc. is too great even though I know I have done a lot of good. Thanks.
Ben Jones :

I am certainly not saying that you are overreacting, I understand that situations like this can be upsetting, but I had to make you aware of your rights at the same time and when they do not match what you may have expected to hear, it can be difficult to accept, that I understand. It does not mean you have no rights at all, you have the right to defend yourself in whatever way you find appropriate, so if you wish to ask for a meeting to prompt them to reveal more details about this, or just to discuss this in general, and for you to take the opportunity to clear your name in whatever way you feel appropriate, you may certainly do so.

JACUSTOMER-4830n21z- : Maybe I'll take an add out in the loca
Ben Jones :

sorry your response appears to have been cut off, I only got part of it...

Ben Jones :

Hello we could not finish our conversation last night as it appears you were cut off, please get back to me so we can finalise this to your satisfaction, thank you