Distressing workplace dismissals
Typically, when an employee is dismissed, it would be for a fair reason – poor performance, redundancy, or serious misconduct, to name a few. For any dismissal the employer must also follow a procedurally fair process in terminating employees. While the mechanics of what is considered fair can be circumstantial to each employee dismissal, there are a number of typical steps that an employer should comply with. Including giving fair warning, allowing an employee an opportunity to explain themselves, and considering milder disciplinary options when appropriate.
Most employees may give up an afternoon, lunch break, or even the weekend to get more work done and help the company. However, 47-year-old and mother of two, Ms Debbie Stevens, was dismissed after giving up one of her kidneys to help her boss. Ms Stevens was working for her boss, Ms Jackie Brucia, as an assistant from 2009 until 2010, until returning to the position in 2011. During the break in her employment Ms Stevens heard of her boss’s kidney issues and offered one of her kidneys as a kind gesture. However, at the time Ms Brucia already had a possible donor and did not take up Ms Stevens on her offer.
Ms Stevens eventually returned to work for Ms Brucia after moving back into the state. At that time, January 2011, Ms Brucia had asked if Ms Stevens was genuinely offering her kidney. Ms Steven’s offer was genuine. Not as a tactic to get a promotion or raise, just from the kindness of her heart. She did not want her boss to die.
After testing it was found that Ms Stevens was not an appropriate match for Ms Brucia. Therefore, in August 2011, Ms Stevens decided to donate her kidney to an alternative person in order to help her boss move higher on the donor list and have a greater chance of receiving a matching kidney. Ms Stevens did have complications with the surgery where she started having digestive issues.
Employer creams abuse at the employee
However, immediately after the surgery, in a shocking twist of events, Ms Brucio started to verbally abuse and scream at Ms Stevens while at work. Completely unwarranted, Ms Brucio’s demeanour changed, and she started treating Ms Stevens horribly. A few weeks after the surgery Ms Stevens was adversely treated as she was demoted and moved to a car dealership 80 kilometers away from her original workplace. The effects of Ms Brucio’s bullying started to psychological affect Ms Stevens where she started seeing a psychiatrist for her mental health.
Eventually, Ms Stevens did hire attorneys to try and professionally resolve her issues with Ms Brucio. Ms Stevens was dismissed within the week. Ms Stevens did lodge a claim\ in the New York State Human Rights Commission with the intention to go to court. However, the matter has been resolved outside of court. Ms Stevens harshly learnt to never go above and beyond for your employer as all employees are expendable.
Cancer is no excuse
Mr David Barrow had worked for Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), an engineering and infrastructure firm, for 36 years until he was unfairly dismissed in 2018. Allegedly due to his “disruptive and challenging behaviours” after having to take steroids to combat what eventually become a cancer diagnosis.
The issues started in January 2017 when Mr Barrow was promoted from level 70 to level 75 in a company wide restructure. However, Mr Barrow noticed that he was actually placed at level 80. While this would usually be a cause for celebration, to be placed on level 80 reflects a certain level of stature and seniority, where a pay rise would be expected Mr Barrow had not received a pay rise. He felt as though his pay did not reflect the expected work load and level of seniority he was given. When he complained to his manager, he was told that he could not yet be officially promoted to Vice President, and that being placed on level 80 was a short-term alternative step.
In September 2017, Mr Barrow noticed a concerning skin condition and so he saw his general practitioner, who prescribed him steroids. The steroids had begun making him more energetic and hyperactive, making it difficult for him sit and concentrate. During this time Mr Burrow was also becoming increasingly more upset about his work-pay discrepancy. He complained to the HR Director, asking to clarify whether his promotion had been implemented yet.
Emailed his grievences to HR
After receiving a written copy of his level change, Mr Barrow became angrier as it was clear the company had given him a more senior position, with additional work, with no pay rise to match. Mr Barrow felt abused by the system. The steroids had only heightened Mr Barrow’s feelings where they started to “overflow” and make him agitated. Mr Barrow eventually formally emailed his grievances to HR. However, little discussion had come from his complained and he felt entirely rushed and dismissed by the company.
A week or two after his complaint, in December 2017, Mr Barrow was dismissed due to an apparent “lack of performance over the last 18 months, combined with behaviour not commensurate with his leadership role”. Despite there being discrepancies as to what his role, and reflected pay, consisted of.
Diagnosed with cancer
In January 2018, Mr Barrow was formally diagnosed with a form of lymphoma. In March 2018, he was invited by the company to have a discussion relating to matters regarding his employment. The company had conducted a subsequent internal investigation where they were to decide whether the dismissal in December 2017 was appropriate. In May 2018, after the conclusion of the investigation, Mr Barrows was formally and finally dismissed. The company had written that it was due to a “breakdown of trust and confidence”.
The matter had gone to a UK tribunal and court where the judge had decided that the investigation was a scam. That it was only done as an impression of conducting an investigation. The company had already made up their mind to dismiss Mr Barrows. However they had to put on the charade to sell that it was a fair dismissal through a legitimate procedure. The judge had made a point to comment that the decision was in favour of all sick and disabled employees around the county. Mr Barrow was awarded 2.5 million pounds.
Mother loses a child, and her job
In September 2019, Ms Tahlia Brown, a Queensland mother, and employee at café employee at Rockhampton Airport, received the worst call of her life when she was told that her 17-month-old baby had drowned in their spa bath. Her baby was flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. Ms Brown was at work when she received the call and immediately left, rushing through security, to be with her child and family.
Ms Brown received condolences from her coworkers and direct managers. However, had not heard anything from higher management. When she called the next day to explain what happened and organise a plan to return to work, she was told that they “already had that information and didn’t need to hear it again”. Ms Brown never received another shift. Three weeks after her child’s death Ms Brown was told that her employment was “not looking very good”. Adding further that she should consider alternative work. Despite the warning her direct manager that she had always been a great employee and that she was happy providing her a reference. Clearly demonstrating that there were no performance issues or alternative reasons for her dismissal.
Employee left in a cruel position
Ms Brown was left in a cruel position where her child and home life had died, she had four other children to feed, she was not able to work for weeks, and without a termination letter Centrelink could not help her either. Ms Brown had previously worked 50 hours a week due to the café being short staffed, earning approximately $1,000 weekly, and was friends with the airport security and café employees alike.
The café itself was happy for Ms Brown to return to work, however, to work in an airport all staff require an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC). And the Rockhampton Airport ad refused Ms Brown’s security card for her to return to work. She felt as though the airport had treated her like a ‘terrorist’ barring her from her security clearance and taking away her income.
Upon speaking with the airport, they said that they were finding her alternative work in different areas that did not require a security card. However, it was clear that the airport had no intentions for a grieving mother to return to her work. Failing to provide her with an ounce of sympathy and compassion during an impossibly difficult period in Ms Brown’s life.
88 years young
Ms Eileen Jolly, a 88 years old woman, had become the oldest person in the United Kingdom to win an age discrimination case against her employer. The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. Where she had worked for the establishment since 1991, through their many entities and names, until she was dismissed in 2017. It was reported that she had not taken a sick day in the last 10 years of her employment despite suffering a heart attack. She was a fiercely loyal employee and loved her job.
Ms Jolly was employed as a secretary. A part of her role was to manage a list of patients who were waiting for non-urgent surgery. In 2015, the system changed to an electronic patient record (EPR). With the electronic change, her position also changed to a ‘patient pathway coordinator’. She was required to undergo new training, which she described was “quite short”. However, her role was never formally or succinctly explained. Ms Jolly had gone away on holidays and on her return in September 2016 she was told that an investigation was placed against her.
Ms Jolly recalls that the entire experience was “awful” and that colleagues were certain that she would not be returning. Feeling as though the employer has already decided that Ms Jolly would be found guilty and dismissed prior to the full commencement of the investigation. Apparently, the investigation was regarding two serious incidents over two years regarding her previous waiting list duties. Therefore, the company was concerned about her “capabilities”.
Investigation was done poorly
However, Ms Jolly had never been told or warned about these incidents before. The investigation itself was done poorly and with discriminatory intent. Without Ms Jolly having a genuine opportunity to reply to the allegations, her coworkers were asked about her age and mobility which the judge found “inappropriate” and “discriminatory”. Unsurprisingly, Ms Jolly was dismissed in January 2017 after the conclusion of the internal investigation.
Ms Jolly lodged an unfair dismissal and discrimination claim to the UK tribunal. Both was found in her favour, particularly based on discrimination of her age and disability. The tribunal judge made a note to all employers not to judge people based upon their age as their true potential would not be appreciated. The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust was further scrutinised as they were an establishment tasked to provide safety and care to patients. However, failed to care for their own employee who had loyally been working for the foundation for over 25 years.
Parental rights and employee wrongs.
Mother, Ms Becky Claussen, had worked for a Salt Lake City based company, the Summit Group, for 13 years. She worked remotely, which worked perfectly as she had a 10-year-old son named Cameron. Cameron was diagnosed with Leukemia in April 2019, ten days before his tenth birthday. Starting Chemotherapy only two days later. In order to help her son, Ms Claussen took paid time off in order to take care of her son.
Upon her arrival to work Ms Claussen received a message, assumably from a manager or senior member of staff, that they did not believe she could not “perform the account manager position adequately under the new circumstances.” A few weeks later Ms Claussen’s boss had flown to Virginia where her son was being treated. Grousomely, Ms Claussen’s employment was terminated in the hospital lobby where her son was fighting for his life only meters away. She was forced to explain what had happened once she returned to his hospital room. There was no opportunity to organise a support person and she was never warned of any performance issues,
Ms Claussen was a single mother of four children, and as the American healthcare system works, then no longer had insurance to pay for her son’s treatments. However, Ms Claussen had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Fighting against her unfair dismissal and abhorrent treatment as a result of her exercising her parental responsibilities. Fortunately, after five rounds of chemotherapy Ms Claussen’s son was announced free from cancer.
Conclusion to: World’s Saddest Unfair Dismissals
We are Whole New Approach, (we are not lawyers). We specialise in helping those who have experienced workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair dismissal. With over 30 years of experience, we have assisted more than 16,000 workers take action through the Fair Work Commission. The idea of this article is not to make you feel sad but not to be naive. Now most employers do the right thing. The the ones who don’t, need to be exposed, to compensate employees who have been sacked and discriminated against.
We offer a no win, no fee service and provide a free initial consultation. Don’t delay – act within 21 days from your dismissal date to file a claim. Employers know our reputation, and we’re ready to advocate for your rights.
Reach out to A Whole New Approach today for expert support and a path to justice. Call us at 1800 333 666. Your rights matter, and we’re here to protect them.