After training in the police force Alan, 24, joined the furniture chain as a sales supervisor in one of its large stores. He had recently been asked to act up as deputy manager when he came across a suspect transaction where new goods had been heavily discounted, invoiced to a small furniture shop in the county town and, contrary to company policy, despatched without payment.
As the transaction had been authorised by the branch manager, Alan followed company procedure and referred the matter to security. Without warning, Alan and Anne were put on paid leave of absence for several weeks while security carried out its investigation.
On the advice of a friend in the local fraud sqaud they decided to take the matter to the top and contacted the managing director of the company as they could not understand why they, who had done nothing wrong, were sent on leave.
Soon after the managing director looked into the complaint they were allowed to return to work, but at different stores. Over the next few weeks the couple received nuisance and threatening calls and Alan was a sent an anonymous letter, on company stationary, claiming that Anne was having an affair.
During security's investigations further allegations were made by six warehouse staff that heavily discounted goods, superficially damaged on the instructions of the branch manager, were dispatched to customers in the county town. Rumours spread that the area manager was closely connected to the store in the county town.
Security's inquiry cleared the branch manager, but the warehousemen were told they faced a disciplinary hearing for damaging goods. 'We felt completely let down by the company,' Alan said. 'We acted in good faith . . . And yet my previously good career prospects began to look poor and the innocent warehousemen were facing dismissal. The company clearly had its priorities wrong.'
The couple then contacted Public Concern at Work, whose solicitors approached the company's board of directors with a summary of the case. After their intervention at the disciplinary hearing it was accepted that although the goods had been damaged the warehousemen had been acting on the orders of the branch manager.
The area manager is leaving the company but Alan and Anne were given no explanation or thanks. Alan has now left the company.