As a manager responsible for an aircraft maintenance department in London Heathrow.During an informal discussion with one of my employees I divulged salary comparison information which had been sent to me in a confidential email from HR which this employee has now broadcast to the department. This employee has also now quoted the data to my immediate supervisor who is now obliged to pass this information to HR and Senior Management in the USA.I have been employed by Northwest since 1982, but the company mergered with Delta Air Lines in 2008 and I was given a UK contract of employment to continue my position within the new company in January 2010.Legally can I be dismissed for this indiscretion after a 30 year unblemished record. My supervisor has given me the option of standing down to a lower position, or possible resignation. This has only verbal at the moment, and has given me the weekend to consider my options. He has held off making this official in an effort to help me, and keep my employment record clean.
Province/Country relating to question: UK
nothing yet, have been given time to consider my options.
Hello and thank you for your question, which I will be happy to assist you with. Please let me know what is your specific question about this?
Can I be dismissed over this if this becomes official, or would I be better to accept a demotion with no warning letter on my file.
Apologies for the slight delay, have you breached a specific policy or instruction through your actions? Also is there a policy that states what could happen in the circumstances?
In my UK Contract of employment it states the following:
Rules of employment.
The employee shall observe strictly Deltas rules, internal guidelines, instructions, policies, and procedures set forth in the Work Rules. Employee acknowledges that failure to comply with such rules and regualtions may justify ermination of thhis agreement.
Duty of Loyalty and Confidentiality
Employee shall not during the continuance of his/her employment or at any time after its termination:
a) Divulge or reveal to any person, firm or corporation any trade secret of Delta, or any information concerning the organization, business affairs, finances, transactions of Delta, or any information concerning its customers, as to the persons with whom Delta has dealings and upon what terms, which may come to Employees knowledge during his/her employment under this agreement.
Employee shall during the continuance of his/her employment use his/her best endeavours to prevent the disclosure of any trade secrets and confiedential information and shall keep with complete secrecy all such trade secrets and confidential information entrusted to him/her.
Under the Company UK Work Rules I assume my actions could be considered Gross Misconduct. Even though this information from HR was considered confidential, and was discussed with one of my employees.
The following list provides examples of conduct the Company would normally regard as sufficiently serious to warrant immediate dismissal without notice or payment in lieu of notice.
If dismissal is not appropriate, alternative disciplinary action may be taken as outlined above.
For the avoidance of doubt this list is not exhaustive or exclusive and offences of a similar nature will be dealt with in the same way.
as per the following phrase:
"disclosure of sensitive or confidential information."
The restrictions that you have listed are usually aimed at preventing the disclosure of sensitive or confidential information to persons outside of the organisation, rather than internally. So it may not actually be the most relevant policy that the employer wishes to rely on, if they are to rely on it of course.Saying that, if you were specifically told that the contents of the email were confidential but you then went on to discuss them with someone who was not privy to the email then that would indeed be potential misconduct. In terms of what the potential outcome of any disciplinary action would be, dismissal would be quite harsh in the circumstances (long service with a clean record, also the fact that this was an internal disclosure rather than an external one). As to demotion, the employer can only introduce that if it was allowed under your contract of employment as a disciplinary sanction. If they went on to demote you without such a clause then that would likely be a breach of contract on their part. Instead they should issue you with formal warning which is to remain on your file for a certain period of time.In the circumstances you may be best advised to go through with any disciplinary action they are proposing and defend the allegations. If the outcome is dismissal, you can challenge this in the employment tribunal as an unreasonable outcome due to the reasons above. If the outcome is a demotion then you can challenge it as a breach of contract. Try not to be pushed into resigning at this stage as it would generally be easier to challenge this once our employer has taken formal action against you rather than if you resigned.IMPORTANT: As professionals on this site, it is extremely important that our customers rate the service we provide. This only takes a few seconds and your question will NOT close. I would therefore be grateful if you could please choose one of the following options: OK Service, Good Service or Excellent Service. If you feel the need to leave a lower rating, please reply to me first with any further questions you have. I will be happy to assist further and clarify anything you need me to before you go on to leave your rating. Thank you
Expert in UK Employment Law
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