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FraX premutation associated disorders and my dismissal
Posted by eddie28
9th Jun 2014

This might be difficult to provide any detailed concerning the premutation, I was tested last year in July after learning that my partner was pregnant and there was concern about the fragile x gene inherited in my family. I'd also learned from reading courses and research about premutation that carriers sometimes showed associated disorders and fragile x type symptons. I have a brother who was diagnosed with this and I'd had some concern that I might have similar problems, especially difficulties managing stress and learning skills. The description I'd read about the experiences and visible signs of this from information available of the fragilex society website seemed fairly close to my problems with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager, and in someways it was a disturbing revelation to learn this could be related to the premutation after so long.

I'd been seeing my GP before this, and had been prescribed medication again in January 2013 partly due to feelings of frustration with work and pressure from my relationship with my partner. We'd broken up in February and decided to remain friends, she was preparing to work abroad in Iceland, and I'd felt sad but also relieved that I didn't have worry so much about this responsibility. But then in April we'd learned about the pregnancy, and although we'd discussed how I felt we weren't in sure what we both wanted and I didn't feel ready to be a father, we'd agreed to stay to together in London and have the baby, although Nika seemed prepared to have the baby regardless of our situation. We'd found a flat in October and the Francis was born on November 17th and we were both proud.

Up until this time, I had been experiencing some stress and feelings of exhaustion which I'd tried to see my GP about, where I felt the concerns about the future, having a baby, our relationship and what it meant to have premutation weighed heavy on my mind. I'd made my employers aware of this and my feelings of stress at this time, and had contacted my HR department in order to work more flexible hours and to help me cope better with the stress. I'd provided a letter from my GP, the confirmation letter from clinic, information about the premutation and they had also arranged for me to be examined by an occupational therapist, who although he was not aware of the premutation or my medical history, had determined that due to stressful events in my life I was experiencing anxiety and not clinical depressed and therefore medically fit to manage my work. During this time my line manager did have concerns about my performance and reservations about permitting me to work flexible hours, I'd disagreed with her about this and the issues she'd raised, and with the support from the HR team had asked me to complete a capability procedure in order to assess my performance and also improve upon on any issues. I'd disagreed with this procedure and felt this was undermining my performance where I saw no clear evidence to support this case for a lapse in my performance apart from our disagreements concerning the flexible working hours request. I'd also felt that if there had been any issues with my performance or conduct it was somewhat explicable given my circumstances around this time.

Following these disagreements with my colleagues, and where I'd felt I was not on good terms with my line manager, I'd sent an email to her containing a cartoon (batman rescuing a woman), thinking she might find it amusing or silly, a week before my son was due to be born. I'd taken several days off from work after the birth and returned to work to find that my line manager and HR team had decided to raise this incident as a disciplinary procedure for breaching the company policy about the misuse of emails and as gross misconduct towards my line manager. During the investigation, I'd explained I understood how the image could be perceived as being either inappropriate, offensive or sexually suggestive, but was meant as a joke which was partly related to an informal conversations with her, and any allegation of misconduct were exaggerated and without merit. The HR team had decided that my reasons for sending the email were misjudged, and although the nature of the image appeared ambiguous it was determined to be offensive and therefore violation of the company policy concerning misuse of emails. I was given a formal warning for 12 months on my company record and had decided not to appeal this decision where I felt the incident was slightly ridiculous and did not wish to cause any further friction between my line manager. Shortly after this I'd signed a performance improvement plan and the capability policy in order to satisfy my line manager and HR team but had also informed them that I'd disagreed with the terms in these documents, where I felt there was no evidence to support the issues presented as a objectives to be improved upon and had never agreed this with my line manager.

I think partly due to this incident, and partly due to my partner's exhaustion and stress after the birth and where her mother was living with us to help look after the baby, I'd also felt exhausted and depressed, this was also around the time the occupational health therapist had determined that I wasn't clinically depressed and my request to work flexible hours was rejected on the grounds that I was medically fit for work, and that my suggestion that it would help me support my partner and our baby was impractical with the requirements of the role: I'd also disagreed with this where the majority of our tasks are performed online using email or phone for communication.

At the time, I was drinking almost everyday in the evenings, not large amounts but enough to calm my nerves, but my partner was worried and angry about this and my depression. We'd had an argument while her mother was away visiting friends, and we'd struck each other, I'd also lost my temper and smashed a window. You can understand my partner was scared and upset, and she'd called her mother who then reported this to the police. While I'd tried to apologise and calm her, and prepared to pack my things to stay with my parents in Southampton, the police arrived and questioned us about what happened. I wasn't arrested where there was not serious damage or injury and my partner did not wish to press charges, but I was cautioned for causing a disturbance and asked to leave for several days before trying to resolve anything.

I'd eventually resolved this dispute with my partner by January, when I took maternity leave for 2 weeks, but my partner remained bitter about the incident, and held me responsible for this and the breakdown of our relationship and so insisted that I should try to move out as soon as possible. I felt distraught and that this was also difficult to manage at short notice alongside the problems I'd had with work.

My relationship at work with my line manager had similar tensions, I'd disagreed with the terms of the disciplinary procedure and felt undermined by the issues described in the performance improvement plan, which reflected badly on my performance without clear evidence. Following the dispute with my partner in december i'd informed my line manager that I might have difficulty attending work over christmas where I didn't have other accommodation until my maternity leave in January. She accepted this and we'd made arrangements for me to work from home in Southampton until my return at the start of January. When I had returned I was staying temporarily at my sister's flat until I could persuade my partner to allow me to return during my paternity leave. I'd felt extremely depressed, and had into work late several times due to rail disruptions and exhaustion. I'd had a meeting with my line manager and the HR team to review my performance and we'd spoken again about the incidents of lateness, for which I was warned but that my lined manager would not proceed with disciplinary action out of consideration for my circumstances at the time. At this point I felt lost and distraught, and not in direct response to these events, but when my line manager had asked my to send instructions concerning tasks that needed to be checked for the duration of my maternity, in the email instructions I'd sent to my two colleagues and my line manager I had inserted a prank url address containing profane language along with my message . This was misjudged and meant as an inappropriate joke without being malicious but was given to the HR team and the head of production 3 weeks later where I was promptly dismissed for gross misconduct and on the grounds that I had not satisfied the objectives in the performance plan. However, 2 days before the summary dismissal I did attend a meeting with my line manager who had informed me that she was satisfied with this and there was no outstanding issues. In the dismissal meeting I was told by Chief operations director and the HR manager that my line manager had been afraid of me and felt unable to work with me in her team and that my attitude and behaviour was the cause of the bad atmosphere in the team. This last statement did not appear in the dismissal letter.

I'd felt misled and undermined by the use of the performance plan document, which along with the disciplinary procedure and allegations of gross misconduct I felt were vindictive and punitive, where my line manager and HR team had ignored my concerns regarding my circumstances at this time. I recognize how both incidents of alleged misconduct do breach the springer code for email misuse, but these appear trivial in the context of the team's general attitude and normal behaviour. In my opinion, I was under pressure and distressed, and meant no harm with either incident. There was no prior incidents of misconduct in the 18 months I'd worked with my line manager and the team, except during the allegations of poor performance and misconduct during the 3 months of these discussions and the circumstances I have described. I would say that I was fit for work up until the time of the dispute with my partner but in the weeks that followed I was depressed and exhausted and convinced that my line manager and HR team had treated me with contempt and were not providing with the support they had agreed, that the performance plan and disciplinary were both arbitrary and perfunctory measures which could have been avoided had my line manager and colleagues wished to do so.

During the appeal which followed, the HR team promised to follow procedure and treat these events with the utmost seriousness and objectivity, however after a lengthy 4 weeks investigation it was decided that I had been medically fit but incapable of restraining myself from sending offensive emails. This suggested my line manager and colleagues from the HR team had done there best to give me their support to complete the objectives and improve my performance, but that although there had not been a formal investigation into the second incident of alleged gross misconduct, it had been an objective in the performance document that I would communicate with my colleagues in polite a and positive manner; therefore, I had not achieved this objective and a disciplinary and probable dismissal would have been inevitable given that I had been cautioned for this in November.

I can imagine, that after reading this, you must be both bewildered and shocked as I am. I am not trying to suggest that the incidents of misconduct were excusable, only that these were unfairly escalated and the penalty was severe and made without consideration despite my concerns I'd raised since July last year. The conclusion from the recent appeal was that I was medically fit, that the medical reports indicated I was suffering from anxiety and did not mention either mental health issues or if these were attributable to the premutation I had been tested for. The medical report from my GP had not mentioned this, as did letter I'd received from you, I had also been told by the occupational health therapist that my past medical history not relevant in his assessment to determine whether I was fit for work. He had also mentioned that he viewed the term 'depression' as a stigma, and that his definition of this condition was that a person could only be diagnosed with clinical depression if they showed signs of being suicidal, which I obviously did not. He'd asked me to complete an NHS questionnaire to determine my mental health which I felt skeptical of determining my symptoms, but this had showed that I was suffering from anxiety and bordering on depression. In the investigation for the appeal the HR team had referred to this to determine that I was not depressed, suffering from mental health issues or diagnosed with a disability.

I have submitted a case for an employment tribunal on the grounds of unfair dismissal and discrimination, and have been contacted a legal advice team about this. But my GP has suggested contacting in order to clarify whether or not my behaviour or mental health could be in some way be attributable to having a premutation. As i said, I don't think this is an excuse for misconduct, but I felt that the procedures at the time were bias and contrived especially under the circumstances I had been experiencing.

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