An accountant in Auckland has been awarded $17,000 New Zealand
Dollars, after being unfairly dismissed from her workplace for inappropriate
use of capitalisation in staff emails.
Vicki Walker was fired from her role as financial controller
at ProCare Health in Australia following claims that she had sent ‘confrontational’
emails to co-workers, which included highlighting phrases with bold type, the
use of red and blue font and the capitalisation of sentences.
One email that Walker sent to her office contained the line:
"TO ENSURE YOUR STAFF CLAIM IS PROCESSED AND PAID, PLEASE DO FOLLOW THE BELOW
CHECK LIST" which was also written in blue, bold font.
Although the tribunal suggested that Walker had caused a certain amount of ‘disharmony’
in the office through her emails, they went on to rule that with no email style
guide and no prior warnings about her conduct, that the nature of the dismissal
was, of course, unreasonable.
Already on The Telegraph website is a heated debate forming
in the comments section about whether this action was, or was not worthy of
dismissal, and some of you ruthless lot out there believe that she certainly
should have been reprimanded for her caps, which in web terms usually indicates
that you are ‘shouting’ at your audience.
As an employee of an internet business I do my fair share of
communication to users and other colleagues over email and from users alone
receive between 50-100 emails a day. I myself do not use capitals as a means of
communication, but can certainly see the benefit of their use when stressing
something important. There is a clear difference between someone who uses caps
and different coloured font to convey a message, over those who are
deliberately using caps to an offending end, and believe me, when someone is
trying to upset you through their use of capitalisation, it is very obvious indeed!!
Whether you agree or disagree with the actions of ProCare
over Walker’s frivolous use of fonts,
colours and capitals to express herself (sarcastic tone is intended here), the
case and point is that there were no regulations set out in the first place
against this behaviour, and in the kind of workplace that has fully embraced
the modern age, then certainly some common practice for emails and other
communications should be drawn up by the company.
So, what does this story tell us, aside from watching your
caps in public? It tells us that unfair dismissals do go on in the workplace, and that there are ways to overcome this.
If you think you have been unfairly dismissed for some reason, what can you
Resolve the problem
If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed, the first course
of action should be to approach your employer before making a formal complaint.
This will allow you to talk through the issues surrounding your dismissal so
that you can gain proper reasoning and also gain an indication as to whether
things can be reconciled without taking matters any further. You may wish to
bring in an independent arbitrator, and more details about how to do this can
be found on the Direct Gov Website. Remember, during this meeting you should ensure
that you conduct yourself in a calm and professional manner, even though you
may feel very aggrieved by the situation.
Going to a tribunal
If the matter is not resolved internally, then you could
take the matter to an employment tribunal to claim for unfair dismissal. There
are some people who will be unable to put forward a case to a tribunal, and
more details can be found by clicking here. In order to qualify for a tribunal you usually
have to have been employed by the company for a year, except on the grounds of
automatic unfair dismissal; which is dismissal based on things like your gender
or age, for example.
For a comprehensive guide to Unfair Dismissal, check out the
pages on the Direct Gov Website.
To read the article about Vicki Walker’s case, click here.
HAPPY JOB HUNTING AND GOOD LUCK!!!