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False or Vexatious Complaints

Dealing with unfounded grievances

Sometimes employees raise grievances where they are mistaken about the circumstances they are complaining of. Other times, grievances are raised by employees deliberately intending to mislead their employer.

Grievance procedures are in place to allow employees to be able to raise complaints which are then thoroughly investigated and dealt with. Sometimes employees raise grievances which are unfounded, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Employers should be careful to ensure that they can satisfy themselves as far as possible as to the falsity or otherwise of a grievance raised.

At the stage the grievance is first raised with an employer, the person dealing with the grievance should avoid having a knee jerk reaction where a grievance is apparently false. It should ensure that a sufficient investigation is carried out to ascertain whether there is a basis for the matters raised and to ensure that any genuine complaints are fairly and adequately addressed.

If an employer has suspicions that a grievance is unfounded, unless there is anything immediately apparent to suggest to the contrary it should usually give an employee the benefit of the doubt that they genuinely believe that the issues being raised are true and address the grievance accordingly.

Where there is clear evidence that a grievance has been raised in a deliberate attempt to mislead an employer or in a malicious manner it may be appropriate to commence disciplinary proceedings against the individual. An example of such a situation would be where an individual raises a baseless grievance against a line manager who has instigated disciplinary allegations against them as a form of retaliation. This should be done where there is sufficient evidence to confirm this and any disciplinary process should always be carried out in accordance with the employer’s disciplinary procedure or if there is none in a fair and thorough manner.

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