I am in a middle management position and I work for a bakery which is owned by a multinational corporation. We sell cookies, muffins, coffee, smoothies etc.
Not long after Christmas, I felt unwell and called in sick to work. I had vomited that morning because of a stomach bug. I was told by my manager that because there was nobody available to cover my shift, I still had to come into work.
Reluctantly, I took some pain killers and made the hour-long journey to work. I felt rough most of the day and tried to focus on administrative tasks and paperwork rather than serve customers. It's not nice for a customer to be served by someone who looks like death warmed up.
3 hours into my shift, I start to feel sick again so I go to the toilet and end up vomiting again. Once I'd finished I phoned my manager and said I was leaving because I had just vomited again. I was warned that if I did that, I would possibly leave myself open to a disciplinary for leaving the shop "insecure" because I was the only key holder on shift and nobody else was allowed to close the shop unless a key holder was present.
I was advised to "take it easy" for the rest of the shift. 5 hours later and I could finally leave after what was quite possibly the worst shift in my 9 years working in retail. I took the next five days off work to recover and put the whole incident behind me.
Flash forward 3 weeks and I receive a letter addressed to me delivered to my work. This is unusual. This had never happened before. So I open the letter and inside is a short, generic letter inviting me for an "Investigation Meeting" on the other side of the city with a manager of another store I had never heard of.
My immediate reaction in my head was "Oh it's probably about that customer who tried to assault another member of staff a few weeks ago". I was on shift and a drunken customer accused a member of staff of short changing him so he took a swing and tried to hit him. Because of the nature of the incident we had to report it even though he wasn't hurt.
So I pop along to this investigation meeting and i'm met by the manager mentioned in the letter and a younger guy in his early 20s who is there to take notes. The meeting is conducted in a kitchen with no seats which seems a little unusual for a formal meeting but none the less I am not too bothered.
He introduces himself to me and myself to him. He begins by asking where I usually take my lunch breaks. This is not really what I expected but let's carry on. I explain I usually take my lunch break in the food court. The guy taking notes writes down all the questions and my answers word for word.
"Anywhere else?" Is the next question. "Well I occasionally go to the park in the summer and have my lunch there". Not a prohibited practice in any case as our lunch breaks are unpaid.
"Would you ever take your lunch in the shop?". This is against company policy because of food safety etc. "No I don't. I like to get out of there for a while" I quip, to try and lighten the atmosphere.
"Ok. Would you ever use your mobile phone in the shop?" He asks. "Yes, I use it occasionally to contact the manager when he is not in the shop or to contact the delivery driver because the land line phone in the shop has stopped working".
This is an honest answer and a reasonable one. I should refuse to use my own phone for work use but im a nice guy. "Have you ever used your phone for texting people while you were at work?" I'm asked. "Well I text the manager a few times with sales figures but not very often".
His tone of voice becomes increasingly aggressive with no known cause at this point.
"What do you have to say about this?" He presents me with an A4 size glossy photo of myself sitting on a chair in the back of the shop with my phone in my hand. The photo seems to have been taken on a long lens camera from a considerable distance from the outside of the shop. The date and time stamp on the photo correspond to the day I was sick a few weeks earlier.
I then tell him this was an occasion when I was feeling unwell and I forced to attend work and was not allowed to leave my shift to go home, despite the fact that I had vomited twice that day because of a stomach bug.
"You expect me to believe.... that after being sick, your manager said you had to come to work, then prevents you from going home when you are sick again and tells you to 'take it easy'?".
I am now feeling angry and shocked at his response. However, I have something he didn't expect. "Yes I do expect you to believe it......" I reach for my phone in my pocket and play back the calls. I record all of my calls just in case something happened, although I never expect myself to be in this position (This is completely legal where I live). After playing the recordings, he tells me that it's against company policy to have my phone in an investigation meeting (I'm sure he made that up otherwise he would have said it before I played the recordings).
I then tell him "Excuse me, I think the bigger issue here is that company name has broken food safety law by FORCING a member of staff who has been sick to work around food!". Since the start of this meeting, the guy taking notes has been writing everything said word for word. The manager interviewing me now holds his hand over the notes and says to the note taker "hold on a minute" before he has a chance to write what I have just said.
I am getting angry and upset because he won't allow this to be written down. I tell him that if he doesn't allow this to be written down, I will leave the meeting right now and go to our head office on the other side of the city to explain the whole thing to them. He eventually allows what I have said to be written down. Before I have a chance to say anything else, he proclaims "It is now 1:22pm and I am suspending this meeting".
He then leaves the room with no other explanation. The guy taking notes is still in the room with me. Off the record, he tells me he is also shocked at the way this meeting has been conducted. He said he has never been told to stop writing after someone has said something. We informally discuss the situation between ourselves.
10 minutes later, the manager returns with a letter he has printed out. He explains that he has escalated the matter to a disciplinary hearing in five days time. There is no mention on the letter of the reason. When I demand to know why, he simply says "The meeting is OVER. I have nothing else to say."
Flash forward five days later and I attend the disciplinary hearing with a different manager. The reason given? Because I have arrived late for work on four occasions in the past 6 months. This is such a minor issue that this has never been mentioned to me before now. All of the times I have arrived late have been because of public transport issues which are widely publicised after the event. None of these have exceeded 10 minutes on any occasion. It happens to everyone but we don't make a big deal about it because unless you want to spend half your daily pay on car parking, public transport is the only way to get here.
When I ask him about what happened in the other meeting, he claims to know nothing about it and I need to speak to the other manager who conducted that interview.
This was three months ago and today I learn that the manager that conducted the investigation meeting has now "left". When I ask the reason why he left, the person who told me just said "Well if he hadn't have left, we would havemade him leave". The incident I experienced with him might have had an effect on his employment. There's always a chance but I will never know.