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Falsely accused at work: 3 crazy cases

In this snowflake era, it is so easy to accuse anybody of anything. Companies are so nervous with all the anti bullying and sexual harasssment laws its easier just to sack someone and let the false accusations stand. Falsely accused at work can happen to any of us.

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Being dismissed due to a false accusation at work is not something most people would wish on their worst enemy. The sense of injustice, coupled with the smear to your name and career, makes it truly debilitating. These situations usually end in a termination for serious misconduct.

In this article, we share the stories of three employees who had truly shocking false accusations made against them – from racism and sexual harassment, to intoxication and speaking inappropriately in front of children. In one case, the false accusations led to the worst possible outcome, with the employee taking his own life.

Golfer falsely accused of telling colleague “I could lick you all over”

In January 2024, the story of British PGA golfing pro Mark Sturgess made global headlines for the sordid allegations that saw him lose his job. The story begins all the way back in May 2010, when Mr Sturgess began working for the prestigious Cambridge Country Club in the English village of Bourn.

Mr Sturgess, a PGA-accredited golfer who had been a professional for 28 years, taught golf lessons at the club. Surrounded by the rolling greenery of the English countryside, the club features an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool, gym and spa. Mr Sturgess also occasionally stood behind the counter of its golf shop and repaired equipment.

Employees who are struggling don’t ask for help or want criticism. It is easier to just accuse a supervisor or manager of bullying or harassment for excuses for poor job performance.

“You smell so good I could lick you all over” 

Fast-forward to April 2022, and things became very grim for Mr Sturgess at the exclusive club. This was when a female colleague, Amanda Clark, made scandalous false accusations about him that ultimately saw him dismissed. Ms Clark told the club’s management about an incident when she was in the club’s shop with Mr Sturgess and other colleagues.

She alleged that the pro golfer, in front of their colleagues, told her “you smell so good I could lick you all over.” Adding to the potential woes for Mr Sturgess, Ms Clark also told management that he was often “rude and unhelpful.”  Later that night, Mr Sturgess decided to text Ms Clark. The text hit her phone at 10.58pm and read: “I have a question How do you manage to look so good everyday.”

The club launched an workplace investigation into Mr Sturgess’ alleged misconduct. This led to further false accusations against him, including that he had once compared a colleague to infamous British pedophile Jimmy Savile, whilst conversing with coworkers at the club bar.

False accusations lead to dismissal

While on suspension, Mr Sturgess was provided the opportunity to defend himself against the false accusations. He told the club’s management that he did not say he wanted to “lick” Ms Clark. And he argued that her complaint was motivated by what he thought was “a clash of personalities.” He also claimed that there was a “breakdown in their working relationship” when Ms Clark had been promoted to manage the shop.

In May 2022, the club’s workplace investigation confirmed that Mr Sturgess had made “unwanted advances of a sexual nature” towards Ms Clark. This was in reference to both the “lick” comment and the Saville comment, in addition to the inappropriate text he had sent Ms Clark late at night. With this finding, Mr Sturgess was delivered his marching orders by the club’s general manager, firing him for gross misconduct.

Every employee has rights to defend claims and take their issues to the Fair work Commission. Casual employees in particular are mistreated.

Golfer wins unfair dismissal case

However, Mr Sturgess soon contested his sacking with a UK employment tribunal. The judge found that there were several “inconsistencies and contradictions” in the investigation conducted by Cambridge Country Club.

It was found that the club “did not carry out a reasonable and sufficient investigation” The tribunal highlighted the fact that the general manager had not interviewed further witnesses about the “lick” and Saville comments. Nor had he posed any further questions for Ms Clark or investigated the time and date that the comments were made.

The judge ultimately found that there was no evidence that he had made the comments. “I am not persuaded on the basis of the evidence from the investigation and before me in the tribunal and do not find that Mr Sturgess made the comment alleged in the pro golf shop to Ms Clark” the judge stated.

The judge, however, called out Mr Sturgess for texting Ms Clark late at night. “I further find that his inability or unwillingness to accept or acknowledge that receiving such a message, notwithstanding his intention, from a senior colleague late at night whilst at home, may be inappropriate and make Ms Clark feel uncomfortable, exacerbates the offence,” the judge said.

She stated that a final written warning, rather than his sacking, would have been the more reasonable action for the club to have taken. The judge left consideration of the financial compensation to be awarded to Mr Sturgess for a later date. However, she said that his late night text would see his compensation reduced by 40 per cent.

You are entitled to a fair workplace investigation.

Worker falsely accused of discussing sex life in front of children

In another unfair dismissal case brought before the a UK employment tribunal involved a very serious false accusation. In Millie Davey v Swans Day Nurseries Ltd, Millie Davey worked as a senior nursery practitioner at Eilmar Montessori School and Day Nursery, located on the outer periphery of London.

On 20 September 2021, Ms Davey had handed in her resignation to her employer. Due to her notice period, she was not due to leave the school until 22 December 2021. On 6 October 2021, she was told by her manager to no longer respond to parent comments made on the school’s app. This had previously been one of her daily tasks. She was also told not to answer the phone, with the school not providing any reason why.

However, the reason was that the school had received several complaints from parents about her. The complaints had been made as comments on the school’s app. A few days later, Ms Davey was invited to a meeting with two managers. Her account of what happened in the meeting, versus what the school alleged, differed wildly. The night of the meeting, Ms Davey was sent an email dismissing her for gross misconduct.

Employer makes false accusations

The school told the UK employment tribunal that during the meeting, one of the managers remarked that she smelt of alcohol and was slurring her speech. Ms Davey was soon told that a number of parental complaints had been made against her.

This was due to her allegedly falsely claiming that she had fed children milk on the school’s app. Also, that she had made inappropriate comments to colleagues in front of children. The school told the tribunal that Ms Davey had “discussed her sex life in front of the children.” It was also alleged that she had told colleagues to make false claims to the UK government’s education department, Ofsted 

According to the school, during the meeting Ms Davey admitted that she had one or two alcoholic drinks earlier that day. She also admitted that the allegations made against her were true and that she no longer had her heart in the job.

Take action. Don’t suffer in silence. You can take your issues to the FWC in a general protections claim.

Employee provides different story

However, the account of the meeting that Ms Davey provided to the employment tribunal was very different. She claimed that at no point was alcohol mentioned during the meeting. Nor were the allegations that ultimately saw her dismissed detailed to her.

Ms Davey told the tribunal that her manager only told her that he had witnesses that could attest that she was going to report the school to Ofsted. During the meeting, she had denied that she had said anything of the sort.

Tribunal uncovers false accusations

The UK employment tribunal favoured Ms Davey’s versions of events. And it found that the allegations made against her were completely unfounded. When the judge asked the manager if Ms Davey admitted to drinking the day of the meeting, he changed his story. The manager admitted that she did not smell of alcohol, nor that her speech was slurred.

“I am driven to the conclusion that this allegation with regard to alcohol was later fabricated by the respondent.  That explains why nothing was done for five and a half hours after the alleged initial report of her being intoxicated…” the judge said. The tribunal also found that the allegations talking about her sex life in front of children, and making false claims on the school’s app were untrue. The judge remarked that regarding the sex chat claim, the school did not detail that allegation in its dismissal email.

“…I consider the [school] simply seized on this possibility to provide some justification for the claimant’s dismissal,” the judge said. The tribunal ultimately found that Ms Davey had been unfairly dismissed. It ordered the school to pay her £5,325.75, which equates to roughly $10,300 Australian.

False accusation of racism leads to teacher’s suicide

The story of this Canadian teacher is a prime example of the horrible damage false accusations at work can do. A principal working for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the sixty-year-old had been teaching for over two decades and was a proponent of anti-discrimination and public education.

However, his stellar career was soon turned upside down when he attended a diversity, equity, and inclusion training session for TDSB administrators in 2021.

Falsely accused still in shock. I don’t think people realize the consquences of their actions when they put in dodgy complaints against co workers or their manager

Teacher falsely accused of “white supremacy”

In the session, the facilitator made the claim that Canada was more racist than the United States. “Canada is a bastion of white supremacy and colonialism… The racism we experience is far worse here than there,” she said in audio recordings. Mr Bilkszto reportedly contested that claim during the session. And when he did, the facilitator accusing him of embodying “white supremacy” for his pushback against her views.

According to a lawsuit filed against the TDSB, the facilitator said to Mr Bilkszto: “You and your whiteness think that you can tell me what’s really going on with black people.” The facilitator then brought up Mr Bilkszto’s statements in a subsequent session. “One of the ways that white supremacy is upheld, protected, reproduced, upkept, defended is through resistance and, like I said … I’m so lucky,” the facilitator said, before laughing.

“Who would’ve thought my luck would show up so well last week that we got perfect evidence, a wonderful example of resistance that you all got to bear witness to, so we’re going to talk about it, because, I mean, it doesn’t get better than this.”

The hostile environment created during the sessions deeply affected Mr Bilkszto, prompting him to file for sick leave the following day. Subsequent investigations by a Canadian workplace safety authority labelled the facilitator’s conduct as “abusive, egregious, and vexatious,” constituting workplace harassment and bullying.

Employee-representating-themselves-at -th-FWC.
Employee representating themselves at the FWC. Be careful what your doing. The way i put it “don’t turn what is supposed to be your day in court into someone else’s day in court. Always get advice.

Teacher takes his own life following dismissal

However, despite the authority’s findings, Bilkszto’s reputation suffered irreparable damage. Instead of finding support within the school he had served for so long, Bilkszto faced further alienation. Colleagues distanced themselves and the school board failed to intervene.

This saw Mr Bilkszto suffer a series of bullying incidents. He launched a lawsuit against the TDSB for failing to investigate his harassment complaints. Also, for defaming him and uninviting him to a graduation program that he had helped establish. This all saw Mr Bilkszto descend into a severe mental health crisis. He went on extended leave from work. And the TDSB remained indifferent to his plight, refusing to renew his contract, effectively firing him.

Feeling the weight of his legal battles with the board, coupled with the psychological toll of the harassment he endured, on July 13 2023 Mr Bilkszto took his own life. The Ontario government has since launched a review of his case, saying that his allegations against TDSB were “serious and disturbing.”

Everybody is a human being. Everybody is entitled to a fair go. We are not robots to be just let go at the whim of the employer.

Conclusion to: Falsely accused at work: 3 crazy cases

Whether you have faced false accusations, forced to resign, abandonment of employment, discrimination, bullying, harassment or other employee rights violations, we can help. A Whole New Approach has been helping employees in all Australian states and territories for over three decades. We can provide expert guidance to take action through the Fair Work Commission. And to help ensure you hold your employer accountable and receive just compensation.

We are not lawyers but the nations premier workplace advisors and commentators. We are proud of our staff and the outcomes they get for our clients.

Reach out to us today for a complimentary and confidential consultation. Dial 1800 333 666 to schedule your appointment.

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