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I work a for a very well known unique boating company in the south of the UK.

Our team leader recently had a grievance put in against him and we had to give statements on his attitude etc, then we were told, by HR, the only person who would see this statement would be him if he asked to. So I signed mine and was happy in the knowledge I would get no comebacks due to everyone being told this was confidential.

The team leader was recently fired.

Now, here's the tricky bit. The team leaders brother is also on my team and he has some how seen what was written in those statements and I am getting some serious repercussions.

By HR giving the team leader my statement and not hiding my name and signature, then allowing him to have a copy to show to anybody.

Apparently my original question was inappropriate. So, are the HR team at fault here? Or is it the brother in the wrong?

I'm trying to basically figure out where to go from here, but nobody seems to want to help me.

Cheers.

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    What proof do you have that your grievance was shared with the brother? – Gregory Currie Sep 5 at 7:03
  • Assumingly the brother has said something enough to give repercussions that are affecting the OP. – morbo Sep 5 at 7:37
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    Are you sure he actually saw the original version? Maybe his brother simply told him about it? – Dirk Sep 5 at 7:52
  • Whenever management say "confidential", they lie as they will do what they want with the information... So many questions about this type of thing... – Solar Mike Sep 5 at 8:12
  • So the brother shared with 3 other members of my team things that I'd said in my statement. Specific phrases. – Redders Sep 5 at 8:28
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As far as I can tell from your description of the sequence of events HR haven't done anything wrong. It's all on the (ex)team leader's brother.

Per the ACAS guidelines on conducting workplace investigations:

An investigator should try to avoid anonymising witness statements whenever possible. This is because an employee under investigation is likely to be disadvantaged when evidence is anonymonised as they will not be able to effectively challenge the evidence against them.

Only in exceptional circumstances where a witness has a genuine fear of reprisals should an investigator agree that a witness statement is anonymised. However, if the matter becomes subject to legal proceedings, and it is necessary in the interests of fairness, an employer may be required to disclose the names of any anonymous witnesses.

And If I'm reading your question correctly they informed you that the subject of the investigation (the now fired team leader) would be shown your statement, unless they explicitly stated that the statement would be anonymized before being shown to them then by default they weren't going to.

And yes the employer under investigation would be allowed a copy of that statement (and they would be a fool not to request one) - and once they left the employ of the company they could share the contents of that statement with whomever they wanted.

With 20-20 hindsight you'd have been sensible to request anonymization of your statement with fear of reprisals from the brother as your reason. Not enough info to say whether it would have been given (the circumstances are usually pretty extreme for where it would have been, particularly in regards to something that could lead to a sacking) - but you'd have had the option of refusing to give your signed statement.

But in the absence of a handy time machine your formal options are now a bit more limited - you could raise a grievance against the brother for how they are treating you. Not for having read the statement, but for the hassle they are giving you now. Whether you ultimately decide to do that or not it's wise to be documenting everything they are doing that you feel is a reprisal now. Memories fade and days, times, copies of e-mails etc are going to give your complaint that much more weight if you do bring it to HR.

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    You've all been a fantastic help. I'll take it all in a bit deeper tonight. I thought I may have been up the creek without a paddle to he honest but it's great to know I have options. – Redders Sep 5 at 17:03
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You don't know for sure how the other TLs brother has been able to get this information, it could be a copy sent to him by the TL, or could have been verbally given by the TL (less likely that he would remember it word for word), ultimately if the fired TL gave out the info that's done with now as they can't be fired twice, it's about you and moving you forward. If you're part of an investigation you should be, in theory not always practice, protected from any detriment because of your involvement - which is what you say you are suffering now.

If you've been keeping notes (if not, you should be) of what was said, when it was said, and the impact it has on you for example how you feel, how your colleagues behave towards you, etc. then you could file a grievance of your own against the TLs brother. What he is doing is unacceptable from a business process point of view and most definitely a professional one.

Depending on company policy you might be able to raise this as a Whistle-blowing case as confidential, private information has been disclosed to other colleagues, and (in my opinion) gross misconduct (not covered by whistle-blowing) is being performed by the TL's brother as he is taking away your dignity at work - you'd need to refer to your internal procedures to see about this.

If you do take it formally in a grievance, then you could also ask something like "If I my case was to be looked at externally, do you think that the business has done everything it can to protect me from detriment due to my involvement in the previous grievance?" That question, or similar, will get HR thinking and it leads me onto my next point...

IANAL, but you may also have grounds for taking this to an employment tribunal based on not being protected by the business. To me, based just on the information you've provided, there does appear to be a breach of confidentiality and you're now suffering because of it. The business has a duty of care towards you, and if they're failing in that they will need to look into it. If they don't - or it isn't adequate - then you may take this external to your company. However, before you could do that you'll have to follow company policies to try and resolve it which will involve a grievance, and if that doesn't resolve it then an appeal then involving ACAS to mediate.

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The answer is likely a lot of both.

HR should never share identifying information with someone being investigated for misconduct. For one thing, they should have multiple sources who confirm whatever has been said so that they aren't relying on a single person.

And co-workers should never retaliate against an employee who made a valid complaint to HR. They shouldn't retaliate if the complaint was invalid, but since HR decided the team lead needed to go, that doesn't apply.

There are several things you can do here.

  1. Remind the brother that you weren't the only person who filed a complaint, or if you were, HR confirmed whatever it was that you said.
  2. Go to HR and tell them that the brother is retaliating against you. That should also be a termination offense and HR should want to remind him of that and tell him to cut it out.
  3. Leave. What you've described isn't an environment which can be trusted. You've got HR violating the rules, co-workers retaliating, no one bothering to get this nonsense to stop.
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    I see no evidence of HR breaking the rules. If they said “only the now fired employee saw the complaints”, it is quite possible, even likely, that the fired employee told his brother. – gnasher729 Sep 5 at 11:02
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    @gnasher729 - HR should have removed any names from any complaints. The only way this isn't HR's fault is if they provided an anonymized response and the former employee figured it out by process of elimination. That said, HR should have ensured that the complaint, if shared, was as anonymous as possible. – Julie in Austin Sep 5 at 13:17
  • @JulieinAustin I'm curious, to which rules you are referring? – motosubatsu Sep 5 at 14:19
  • @motosubatsu - HR is normally required to maintain strict confidentiality of any complaints in order to prevent retaliation. – Julie in Austin Sep 5 at 14:51
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    @JulieinAustin Funnily enough I'm generally grateful I don't work in the US. I'm not saying the UK system is perfect in this respect, I know I've certainly experienced a situation where the fact that witness statements wouldn't be anonymised left me unable to peruse a complaint (ultimately I left) but it does have some advantages both in preventing maliciously brought complaints or companies simply making up complaints to fire people. As for the brother - the OP would likely have good grounds against him but we don't really know enough detail to predict how it would play out from here. – motosubatsu Sep 6 at 12:41

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