Employee Misconduct: Resolving misunderstandings in dismissal claims
Engaging parties to resolve the dispute amicably
11 March 2022 | Dismissal Claims
Disclaimer: All names of employees, employers and mediators in the case studies have been changed to preserve confidentiality. The case studies are for informational purposes only and they do not constitute legal advice. The Tripartite Alliance Limited shall assume no responsibility and shall not be liable for any loss of damage or claims arising from your reliance on any information provided in the case studies.
- It is essential for employers to establish a proper grievance handling procedure to provide a safe channel for employees to raise and discuss their grievances.
- Employees should bring their grievances to the attention of their immediate supervisor or department head and allow the company to resolve it internally first as there may be blind spots or lapses that can be rectified upon discussion.
- Dismissal claims may involve more than monetary aspects.
When Janet received not one, but three warning letters all at once and was then dismissed from her post as a beauty consultant on the same day, she was taken aback. She believed it could be due to a heated argument she had with a colleague a few days prior. Janet had e-mailed her employer, Mr Teo and requested to discuss the incident further but was turned down. She felt that she was getting punished while her colleague received no punitive action and was aggrieved by the perceived injustice.
Additionally, the fact that an inquiry into her actions was conducted the same day she was dismissed made her feel her dismissal was unjust. Though she wanted to explain herself further about the incident, she did not raise matter again with Mr Teo. She approached the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) to seek recourse.
How TADM helped
During the mediation, Tessa, the mediator provided a listening ear to Janet as she poured out her grievances in the presence of Mr Teo. The latter also voiced out his concerns and unhappiness over Janet’s work performance and confrontational attitude. He explained that the dismissal was not premised on the argument she had had with her colleague, but the fact that the argument had disrupted the shop’s operations. Mr Teo also shared that the company had also dismissed the other employee who was involved in the argument.
While Tessa agreed that Janet’s behaviour might be tantamount to a misconduct, she highlighted to the company that it was only right for Janet to be given an opportunity to explain herself prior to the company’s decision to dismiss her. Janet should have been issued with the warning letters as soon as the conflict with her colleague was brought to the attention of the company, so as to give Janet the opportunity to take steps to improve herself. Issuing the three warning letters all at once and dismissing her on the same day deprived her of the opportunity to change. The company agreed that they could have managed the situation better and committed to improving their practices.
When Janet found out that she was not the only one who had been dismissed because of the argument, she felt relieved that she was not singled out and unfairly dismissed. Tessa reiterated that having an open discussion after such incidences would help both parties avoid misunderstandings.
“As emotions tend to run high during a mediation that involves unfair dismissal, I have to manage the emotions of the aggrieved employee before helping both parties to move towards a mutually acceptable agreement." - Tessa (mediator)
Mr Teo acknowledged that he could have handled the dismissal better and offered a goodwill ex-gratia payment to Janet. In order not to jeopardise her future job search in Singapore, Mr Teo also retracted the termination letter to allow Janet to resign from service. Janet accepted the outcome and decided to move on from the episode. The dispute was thus resolved amicably.
“I would like to thank TADM for helping me to resolve my dispute. Especially to all the officers who have offered me guidance in the last four months, I applaud them for their time and effort in overcoming my grievances. Lastly, I wish to commend the mediator, Tessa for handling my case with great understanding. I appreciate her for trying her best to end the unfortunate predicament with an amicable settlement for me and company. Thank you again TADM, for having Tessa and the rest to support the Singapore workforce with the best advisory and mediation services. I salute with utmost gratitude.” - Janet