Flexible working discrimination grievance
In this grievance letter our client was a high powered banker who put in a request for flexible working to look after her daughter. After starting to work from home, her line manager began ostracising her to the point whereby she had no choice but to negotiate a settlement agreement to leave with her head held high.
The Bussey Building
133 Copeland Rd
London, SN15 3SN
To whom it may concern
By email only: CPowers@uk.cw.com
10th June 2016
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in relation to my client, Charlotte Luther, to set out her grievance as follows:
My client is employed by CW as a project manager. At the time of joining CW she worked for an investment bank, but having worked for CW for 7 years previously she was attracted by the flexibility she thought CW could offer.
Before being recruited into her post she discussed flexible working with her temporary manager, Nigel Blakely. In particular, my client wanted to work from home. This was something that was expressly agreed by Mr Blakely. This was extremely important to my client as her daughter was 7 months old at the time. Her current job paid £15,000 a year more per annum but had less flexibility. Therefore, on the basis of Mr Blakely’s agreement, she accepted the role.
My client proceeded to work from home as agreed. She would attend the office once every few months, primarily to catch up with colleagues rather than to attend meetings, most of which could be done via video conferencing.
My client continued working in this way for several years without any issues ever being raised in relation to the same. About a year after her employment commenced a new manager was put in place, Roland O’Keefe, who was based in the USA but this did not alter my client’s working arrangements. My client understands that remote working was not unusual within the organisation, with many managers working from home.
At first my client’s working relationship with Mr O’Keefe was good. However, towards the beginning of 2015 my client was concerned that she had too much work and was at the point of beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. Rather than do anything about it, Mr O’Keefe ignored the problem and gave my client more work.
In or around August 2015 my client started to receive a large amount of ‘constructive criticism’ from Mr O’Keefe and it felt to her like he was finding fault in everything she did. This was despite the fact that she was receiving positive feedback from clients.
In September 2015 my client’s step mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, due to the pressure that my client was being placed under by Mr O’Keefe she felt that she could not take time off to be with her. In addition, around about this time my client had to have an operation to remove some abnormal cells from her cervix. My client felt very unwell after this but continued to work because of the pressure that she was under.
My client began to suffer with low mood. She discussed this with Mr O’Keefe and told him that his level of criticism was not helping, and nor was bombarding her with work. Mr O’Keefe did ask my client if she wanted to go for an occupational health assessment and mentioned her having a performance review. However, my client explained that she just wanted to be left to get on with her work. Despite this he continued to be over critical and over demanding. Often my client would be questioned about failing to produce work when in fact Mr O’Keefe was looking in the wrong place.
My client felt like she was being singled out because she was the only UK project manager. She is aware that he had good relationships with all the project managers in the USA.
Around about this time my client went to a work social event. At that event she found out that there were problems with the budget within her team and that CW had to make cuts from $7million to $3million.
My client was extremely upset to find out about the cuts in this way, rather than at a formal meeting. About a week later she received a call from Mr O’Keefe’s boss to inform her about the problems with the budget. My client was concerned because her current project was coming to an end. However, he informed her that there was a project manager role in another team that she could move to.
My client was given very little information about the new role and there was no consultation. She was not told that she was at risk of redundancy or afforded a trial period. She felt she had no option but to accept the new role, even though she was unsure about whether it was suitable for her or if whether her current job would still exist or not. My client began transitioning into the new role in the middle of November.
The manager in the new role was Robert Towl. My client spoke to Mr O’Keefe at the beginning of December who informed her that he had told Mr Towl he had concerns about her performance. This left my client feeling very apprehensive about moving into the new role. In addition, my client was given no opportunity to defend herself in relation to performance.
She recalls that she had a conference call with Mr O’Keefe and Mr Towl. She explained that she wasn’t sure about the new role. My client also explained that she had an agreement to work from home. Mr Towl made it clear that he was not happy about this and said that she needed to come into the office three days a week. Mr O’Keefe told my client that if she was asked to come in she would have to.
In reliance on the agreement that she could work from home my client had moved to Brighton and had set up her childcare arrangements without factoring in a long commute to and from central London. However, my client felt very anxious about the pressure she was being put under by Mr Towl and Mr O’Keefe and was worried about losing her job. When she questioned Mr Towl about compelling her to come into the office he simply informed her that there was nothing she could do about it. In addition, she was aware that a number of colleagues were making comments about her not being in the office and talking about her when she was not there. Therefore, since January and notwithstanding her agreement to work from home, my client has been coming into the office 2 – 3 times each week.
When my client joined the new team she was keen to avoid the level of criticism that she had received from Mr O’Keefe. She therefore asked Mr Towl to set her clear goals to ensure that she met expectations. My client first requested goals at a one to one meeting in early November 2015. However, he did not set her any goals for some time.
A little while after my client joined the team my client had a feedback session with Mr Towl. He said that he was happy and was more relaxed about my client working from home provided that she got the job done. However, shortly after that he began emailing my client to tell him her schedule and told her that colleagues were talking about her, saying ‘where’s Charlotte?’
Shortly before Easter my client received a call from Mr Towl who said ‘I am surprised you think things are going well’. He informed her that he thought there was a need to set goals, something that my client had requested from the outset and had requested several times since. Mr Towl requested that my client send him some goals, which she did. He was unhappy with the goals and said he would set different ones.
My client went away over Easter and was so worried that she could not sleep. When she returned Mr Towl had set some goals. However, the CW were extremely subjective and my client felt that she was being set up to fail.
My client spoke to Mr Towl to talk through the gaols. He also raised the issue about working from home again. He stated that had to inform him no later than Monday lunch time each week where she was going to be during the week. On the telephone Mr Towl made clear that he did not think that my client could do her job from home and would not support her if she raised this with HR.
My client makes the following complaints:
- That she is being required to work in the office when she has a contractual entitlement to work from home;
- That she was singled out by Roland O’Keefe for being a UK based rather than a USA based manager;
- That she has been subjected to unreasonable micromanagement causing her to lose trust and confidence in her employer;
- That she was moved from her role to another role in the organisation without any proper consultation, offer of redundancy or adequate support in the new role. She was also not offered the opportunity to have a trial period;
- That she has not been set objective targets and is being set up to fail;
- That it took almost 6 months to be set any goals in the new role;
- That she is being treated less favourably by Mr Towl due to her childcare responsibilities requiring her to work from home;
- That she is being subjected to a hostile working environment, with colleagues talking behind her back about her working from home arrangements.
These matters set out above have now caused my client to be signed off sick by her GP with low mood, anxiety and stress.
I would be grateful if you could confirm your proposals for a grievance meeting at your earliest convenience.
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