Worker on sick leave accused boss of ‘spying’ on her at home Woman wins unfair dismissal case after company checked up on her
AWORKER who took sick leave while her father fought terminal cancer, contacted the police after accusing bosses of snooping on her and scouring her Facebook site.
Credit controller Hilary Long had complained that a director kept watch outside her home and scrutinised her social media messages.
Now she has been awarded £4,400 by a Birmingham Employment Tribunal, which ruled she was unfairly dismissed by Gravity Credit Control.
Following the case, the 57-year-old said: “In the end, it got so bad I couldn’t put the rubbish out because I was so worried about being watched. We had to move. This almost killed me, but I had to see it through. My own brother said ‘stop’, but I couldn’t. I can’t stand bullies.”
Mother-of-four Hilary was on sick leave from the Worcester firm, suffering depression and stress, when the company launched its investigation.
Her father George was seriously ill at the time and has since died.
Police took no action over her accusation of harassment but the tribunal upheld Ms Long’s unfair dismissal claim after hearing allegations that she had been bombarded with text messages from the firm, where she had worked for two and a half years.
Gravity Credit Control bosses deny accusations of carrying out surveillance at Ms Long’s Worcester home, but admit visiting the property, studying her Facebook page and compiling an investigation report.
The tribunal heard that other workers at the small company, which employs six people, had complained Ms Long had been “partying” and “living it up” while on three months leave. They had backed their claims by showing a social media post to director Caren Crawford, sparking an investigation.
Ms Crawford accepted visiting the sick worker’s home three times in September 2016. In her report, tribunal judge Jane Hindmarch said: “On each occasion she recorded the claimant’s car was not on her drive, presumably because the claimant was away attending to her father.”
In November the investigation report was hand-delivered to Ms Long’s home, prompting her to call Worcester Police.
Judge Hindmarsh said: “That investigation report for the first time alerted the claimant to the fact the respondent (Ms Crawford) had been carrying out what she viewed as surveillance upon her, namely, Ms Crawford sitting outside her home address in her car and the respondent checking the claimant’s social media accounts.”
The complaint received from officers.
An email to Ms Crawford from the force stated: “I can confirm the matter of harassment against yourself has been investigated and taken no further. It was deemed the actions you took were reasonable steps in view of your own investigation into Hilary’s conduct whilst being employed by yourself.” The firm maintained that Ms Long’s work had declined and she had failed to keep them in the loop about her sickness leave.
A disciplinary and grievance hearing took place on December 7, in Ms Long’s absence after she said she was too ill to attend. The allegations were as follows: “You failed to initially advise (of the) nature of illness and continually, throughout your illness, failed to regularly inform your manager of your progress without being prompted to do so.
“Notification was also late on the majority of occasions. It is deemed that your social media post and comments negatively affect the company’s reputation and that of a director.
“Your social media post and online activity does not indicate that, on the balance of probabilities, you were not fit enough to attend a meeting with the company.”
Ms Long was dismissed on the grounds of misconduct and gross misconduct.
After the case, Ms Crawford strenuously denied “surveillance” of Ms Long had taken place. “The police took no action,” she said. “They said what we did was reasonable. The outcome of the judgment did not reflect reality.” short shrift
> Credit controller Hilary Long, right, accused a company director of keeping watch outside her home
> Caron Crawford, of Gravity Credit Control