Graves' Disease and facing Disciplinary Action at Work

Hi, I'm new here.

I have Graves' Disease with all the associated problems - fatigue, heat intolerance, shakes, brain fog, anxiety/stress, eye involvement etc

I'm a Catering Manager, I've been in my job (Local Authority - School Meals) for 20 years this month. Despite my ongoing illness, I was put forward for a pay increase in my last Appraisal (Spring Term 2014 - I have still not received the written copy which I was told I would have last July)

Then on Friday I was escorted off the school premises with a letter thrust in my hand informing me of their intention to hold an investigation which may lead to my dismissal.

The nature of the complaints we're

1) Complaint received from a parent when their child did not get the meal option they wanted.

2) Concerns about stock control

In response to point 1 - we we're short staffed on that day and a new employee trained by another unit came to help with service - when the complaint was raised I was informed by another member of staff that the relief was giving over-portioned meals which is why we ran out of the other options.

In response to point 2 - I have been in direct contact with my line manager over recent months as the eye involvement is causing me problems when trying to read small print - I was told I could have new paperwork printed off in a larger font - I have never received them. On some invoices the font is so small and faint, I have to take a picture on my phone and zoom it in before I can write the details down. I big calculator arrived after some weeks but is of little use when I can't see the figures to do calculations.

Mistakes are happening, relief staff have only been sent on the odd occasion since the 1st week back in September - service times are running late due to the lack of staff this then impacts on the school timetable - temperature control sheets aren't being filled in daily due to a lack of time - I'm getting behind on everything and what I can try and do is rushed so things are being missed out/forgotten.

From tomorrow I have to report to a different unit as a General Assistant and to be honest, I'm too stressed to face it - this has all set me back months and I've had a week-end of tension headaches, not eating or sleeping and the shakes are in full swing.

I had membership with UNISON and rang them Friday afternoon to be told my membership ceased in April - It was about that time I had a complete breakdown and had to be off work for a few weeks - I didn't notice the payments had stopped and I'm still not sure why because I know I struggle with organising finances so tend to set up any direct debits close to pay day so it's all paid out and it's 1 less thing for me to think about.

All the help that was promised at the time I had the breakdown, either didn't happen or was short lived and now I feel I am being made the scapegoat.

All Advice appreciated, especially if you have experience with HR - Employee Rights etc

26 Replies

  • So sorry for your problems. Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible. They have legally trained employment law people who will be able to help you sort this mess out. Good luck. Clemmie

  • Thanks for helping :-)

  • Whenever there are employment disputes, someone suggests ACAS. Sometimes we hear that they have been very helpful.

    What a burden for on top of the Graves.


  • Thanks for your reply Rod :-)

  • Get the CAB to ask for a copy of the notes from your appraisal in April and request, again, the written copy. This sounds to me like a) a breach of the DDA (disability discrimination act) and b) a poor attempt by your employers to make it look as if you have made avoidable mistakes, when they know only too well that they need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your difficulties.

    Back to your Graves Disease. It sounds to me as if you are not being properly treated. Ask your doctor for print-outs of all recent blood tests. When you have them, go back and ask for any that are missing. These should be TSH, FT4, FT3 (you'll have to insist on this. Point out that your job is at stake and you need all the evidence in case you have to claim under the DDA), thyroid antibodies, Vit D, Vit B12, iron, folate, ferritin.

    Are you gluten free? I believe that helps some Graves sufferers.

  • My line manager is very forgetful - I doubt she has even typed it up.

    There are 4 Area Managers and the staff in her area all experience the same - ask her something and she will say she will get back to you but she never does - in the next conversation she always says she forgot.

    I had a meeting with her just before I returned to work after my breakdown and in that conversation she admitted she had not yet typed up the appraisals for her Area but she would be doing them during the summer holiday and they would be posted to us. I have not received mine.

    Last night I spoke to a colleague who I am friends with, she is also a Catering Manager on my Area, she also has not received her Appraisal whilst another colleague and friend who comes under a different Area, so a different Area Manager (She is texting me as I write this) received her written copy last Spring and it's dated 8th May 2014. That's a long time ago and soon we will be due our 6 monthly performance review where our managers should have a meeting with each of us and review if we have completed any of our targets that we're set out in the previous appraisal.

    I have no idea what my targets are because I don't have anything in writing to refer to. They are supposed to discuss with you what targets should be set, 2 copies should be typed up and sent back to you to sign to state that you agree with the terms and targets for the next year. I should keep 1 copy for my own records and return the 2nd copy signed for their records.

    As for the Graves' - I am in early stages of treatment and have twice had to come off the Carbimozole as directed to do by the GP for colds so I need to have bloods done to see how far I've come.

    I'll ask for a copy of the results as I don't remember much other than TSH was unreadable and the big 1 - T4? was 3 times higher than the range.

  • Hi HarleyBarley. So sorry to hear of your situation.

    Do you have house insurance with legal cover?

    I work for a local authority and a colleague in a similar situation to you successfully used her home insurance cover to get legal help in a dispute with the council. The whole thing was settled out of court with a substantial pay out. The LA had broken just about every rule in the book and this was exposed by the employment expert commissioned by the insurance company.

    Even if you don't want to take it that far the legal help is invaluable. Unison was useless anyway. It definitely sounds like you need legal help.

    Here is an example of one company ondicating that insurance can be used:

  • No I don't have house insurance. I really ought to.

    I am on a low income - less than £700 per month and I don't qualify for any kind of help with tax credits as I am contracted 25 hours per week and would need 30 hours to apply for any kind of support or help with council tax.

    My wage is all I have. Lots of red letters - don't get me started on the debts lol

    I would look at legal help but I don't know where to start. From what I'm reading, the legal aid pot is running dry and it's very hard to get any kind of legal help for employment related issues.

  • That's a shame but as already mentioned by Rod, ACAS sounds a good place to start.

    CAB are well meaning but you need specialists. The Unions were not much help for my colleague and LA emploeys know that.

    Here are details of the ACAS help line:

    Do hope you get the help you need and get it sorted.

  • I was going to say to take a friend to the meeting but it looks like you are not even being given a chance to speak for yourself. Surely they can't do that without some sort of hearing?

    I can't see how they can do this after 20 years of problem free work which included being put forward for a pay rise as recently as Spring 2014.

    You definitely need advice as to what your employer can and can't do, I think the CAB would be a good starting point, someone there would know all about how to deal with your employer. Before you go make detailed notes on a time line showing how you have asked for help, been promised it and nothing has been forthcoming - list absolutely everything that has been said / done / not done by both you and your employer and take that along with you. You could also take a friend along to the CAB with you for support.

    Rod is right, this sounds like one for ACAS.

    You need to speak to your bank too and find out what happened to the payments and why they stopped, after all you aren't going to ring your Union if you aren't a member are you! Mistakes can happen quite easily and be overlooked, I know that because a few years ago my other half had a flat tyre on the way to work one morning, rang his breakdown service because he was unable to get the spare tyre out from under the car, at that point he found that not only did he not have breakdown cover - he didn't have any insurance!!! What a shock. He was absolutely horrified. Needless to say within minutes of getting in to work the car was insured and not with the people he thought he was insured with.

    Turned out that the problem was caused by a combination of the bank and the insurance company he paid his insurance by monthly standing order or direct debit - not sure which, anyway it turned out the bank were able to tell him that the insurers had asked the bank for the money too soon, bank said no, too soon and the insurers never asked again. Then the whole problem was compounded by my dear husband not paying close enough attention to his bank statement so he didn't notice the money wasn't being taken off. So mistakes like that do happen and maybe it was something like that that happened to you. Your bank ought to be able to tell you what happened back in April so find as much as you can about what happened there for the CAB too.

    As someone who has Graves too I can only feel for you, you really don't need this, so good luck and stay strong.

  • I went on internet banking - I see a payment bounced some months ago and no attempt from them to take the money later which is what usually happens, so it seems to be my error.

    I was told on the phone that they have a 4 month return policy - I think they we're saying if you re-open membership within 4 months of it ending and pay those missed months, then they will count it as 1 continuous membership.

    This has gone beyond 4 months so don't know where I stand until I ring them today.

    I have not had a blemish free career - had a few scrapes along the way and have had to fight my corner on a few occasions with un-substantiated claims. They are too quick to judge, they jump in and remove you from your post, they tell you it has come from HR and never them.

    3 years ago, I raised concerns over aggressive and threatening behaviour shown to a 6 year old pupil by the Head Master.

    It was shocking - we all just stood silent - but we are all duty bound to protect children no matter what position a member of staff is in.

    I spoke to my Area Manager - I was upset about what I had witnessed - I was advised to 'be careful'

    With that I approached the Deputy Head and made it clear through out the conversation that I was not making a complaint at that stage. I wanted advise only on what the protocol was and what it would entail if I decided to make a complaint.

    With that she went and told a School Governor a complaint had been made - That Governer informed the Head Teacher as he had a right to reply - He admitted the allegation and claimed it would not happen again and from that day on that man made my life a living hell.

    I never complained and I know he was told it was me but I can't prove it.

    I was a marked card - we we're sent a new member of staff who was a known trouble maker who had to be removed from her previous unit due to her behaviour. She did the same thing with us - She then complained in writing to the head, who must have rubbed his hands with glee as he rang my boss and ordered my removal from his school.

    My Area manager arrived on site with the Group Manager - they both refused to tell me why I was being taken out of my unit - and for days I had to wait to be interviewed by 1 of them. The group manager interviewed me and said she knew exactly who was at fault but was powerless to re-instate me because the Head was kicking up a stink - That is the total sum of support we get from these people - doesn't matter if you are innocent - their only interest is keeping hold of the contract to provide a service to each school

    I fought it and I got my post back - he moved to a different school in September and has already had his office torn apart by an 8 year old pupil who has learning difficulties and did not cope with the way he was dealt with.

    There is an invisible 'if your face doesn't fit' policy at hand and it's been that way for as long as I've been there.

    It's hard to prove but I know it's there. When you get that vibe that they want you out, you work doubly as hard to make sure you give them nothing to find fault with and that's what I do every day of my life.

  • Sent you a PM - you will see a little bell thing on the top bar, click that and you will see it (I think)

  • Dda was replaced by Equality Act in 2010. IT means employer has statutory obligation to make Reasonable Adjustments, which it sounds like they did not. Dont waste your time trying to get through to CAB. ACAS are no good on Equality Act stuff and unions are not clued up on it. I speak as someone badly let down by own union. Have an ongoing ET claim for disability discrimination against my employer. Ehrc has a helpline, google it. They are the most clued up. You need to stay calm and send them a letter quoting their obligations under the equality act. Google the Act also, it is easy to understand. Look for the section on Reasonable Adjustments.

  • Thank you - so much conflicting advice - I don't know what to do for the best, or know where to start first.

    I tried googling this yesterday - for some reason my laptop doesn't like pdf files - I need to find an idiots guide that's easy to understand - I found some stuff but not much is sinking in at the moment.

  • You cannot be dismissed unless it is proven gross misconduct for this I would only expect a warning and I would appeal your illness is a disability and there is legislation to protect you . Any evidence to which they refer should gave been sent to you prior to meeting . If you need more time go sick and if its stress they cant convene in your absence

  • Their letter (Written by HR) begins...

    Further to your meeting today with (Name of my Area Manager) I can confirm that you are being investigated under the formal stage of the Disciplinary Procedure.

    There was no meeting - They let me go to work as normal, do their dirty work in preparing and serving their meals and then turned up as we we're clearing up to go home.

    She took me in the office and her words we're ' As you know we've been investigating a complaint. Well it's not very good news I'm afraid. I am here to see you get changed and leave the premises, you are to report to another unit from Monday - and she was thrusting this letter from HR in my hand as she was saying that.

    I told her she needs to speak to my staff because since receiving the letter of complaint from the parent - I had been told by my staff that the relief worker who was sent to us, had been giving over sized portions and that is why the amount of food I am saying I cooked, does not add up with the amount of meals showing up on the till.

    She just said well you'll have chance to say that later won't you.

    There was tone and attitude in her voice.

    She could have solved things right there by asking my staff if that is what had happened.

    This letter states I am not to discuss the investigation with any colleague - which means I can't contact her and ask her to speak up for me.

    They just want people segregated and silent.

    They can go through the unit and look for anything to hold against me, but I can't go in and find anything to help my case.

    It's all wrong.

  • Lots of good advice! I do hope you are under an Endocrinologist as GP's haven't the knowledge to deal with Graves.

  • Haven't been seen by 1 yet, they are trying to manage me on Beta Blockers and Carbimozole at this time - There is a long wait to see a specialist here.

    I have rang in sick today, I can't face work, while I am off I'll ring for an appointment and ask them when an appointment is likely.

  • Goodness, you are in the early stages of Graves you must be feeling SO ill, never mind all this.

    The bunch you are working for sound a real bunch of charmers, they also sound like they are doing everything they ought not to be doing so write absolutely everything down, with dates and the names of people who were present at the time things happened.

    You definitely need to speak to someone who can advise you, I agree with Barrister, go to your local CAB office, I know they are busy etc but you might find they can squeeze you in because you need advice quickly.

  • Ironically, one of the worst things for Graves is stress!

    If your eyes are symptomatic you also need to be referred to an Ophthalmologist.

    What is your dosage of Carbimazole and how long have you been on that dose?

    Ask for copies of any blood tests taken (you are entitled to them, although you may have to pay)

    Ask for vitamin tests ie Vit D, B12 iron etc as in thyroid sufferers they are often deficient. Dont be fobbed off with 'they are in range'. Optimal is more often top of the range.

    You can put the results of any tests on here and our resident experts can help you :)

    Your thyroid levels should be done every 8-12 weeks at the very least.

    Most importantly at present is to try and rest as much as possible, eat a good diet, try and go gluten free, address any deficiencies in vitamins etc (when you get your results)

  • I know that it can be difficult getting through to the CAB on the phone but you can actually go there to make an appointment. My local CAB has either face to face appointments or you can even have a telephone appointment. I suspect that you would fare better with a face to face appointment. And they do have employment law specialists volunteering there so they will be able to help you. Unfortunately I'm not an employment law specialist so can't help you in that area. But CAB definitely can! Clemmie

  • Just an update. I am still off work. I have a chest infection! Docs are aware I have been off Carbimozole for 4 weeks trying to fight this cold.

    I'm on antibiotics and should self cert for this week. Have to get sick note if not better by monday.

    I have been using the time at home to collate everything I might need when I take things further with the Disciplinary.

    Have copied to docs all info I can find on the ACAS code 1 Disciplinary and Grievance Procedure - which states that although not illegal, it is expected that employers make employees aware of what the allegations are at the time an investigation is about to start so that the employee can prepare to answer questions that may be asked at any hearings that take place.

    If they do not, then a tribunal can add 25% to any award given if I take up a case against them.

    I have also printed off information factual information about Hyperthyroidism associated with Graves' Disease from a number of medical information websites. Including a list of problems that sufferers experience, including Thyroid Eye Disease.

    Some possible developments have been discovered by talking to a colleague She herself has had to contact her line manager this week because of the varied portion sizes they are experiencing with the Chicken Fillet Portions.

    She has taken a photograph as evidence which she has faxed to her line manager and she has also sent me a copy.

    She also told me that she had spoken with a Catering Assistant from another unit who are also experiencing the same problem.

    I have names of more Catering Mangers who are managed by the same Area Manager and are also still waiting for their Appraisal copy to be given them and I have names of Catering Managers under a different Area manager who had hard copies of their Appraisal back in May.

    With finding help from someone who can represent me, I've decided to keep all options open and approach all before I decide the best way to tackle it.

    I will get to the CAB with all the info I have gathered and ask them purely for advice. The phone number I have seen posted on ACAS and EHRC is the same number so I will also ring that and see what comes of it.

    I am just typing up my account of recent events from a rough copy Time Line I've noted down and then I'm ready.

    Thanks to all of you for showing interest and trying to help.

    It is much appreciated :-)

  • Might help by mentioning that we had Chicken Fillets along with Been Lasagne and a Quorn & Broccoli back on the day of complaint.

    It is these items that have thrown up a discrepancy in the pantry book with my account of how much was cooked and their account of what my invoices state I ordered.

    Some of the chicken pieces are so small that I am wondering if the relief staff was putting more on the plate in order to give a decent amount.

  • Beef Lasagne* :-/

  • So sorry to hear about your problems. I am under some stress at the moment too but am only just starting to come to terms with it.

    My partner of 15 years has decided that he's had enough and wants us to split up. I recently applied for afternoon, evening and weekend shift work because I thought that since I have the Hashimotos and attempting to deal with it as best I can that I work around the illness and do things at times that suit me and how I feel. So I thought that if my energy is better in the afternoons and evenings yet rock bottom in the mornings I could apply to do work at times other people don't feel able to.

    I hope you get everything sorted soon.

  • Hi sorry for the late reply. I was off for 8months and worried about being sacked. I asked to see the occupational health doctors that work for my employers. They told me it was classed as a protected disability and I could not be sacked. They also said work would need to make reasonable adjustments upon my return. You need adjustments that they have clearly not provided. rejoin the union. stand your ground as best you can. I do hope things get sorted quickly x

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