Lack of proper investigation led to a £5k company lunch!

An HR advisor was dismissed when he challenged a company dinner lady who gave him just three chicken nuggets for lunch. The incident happened during a 12-hour shift when the employee was shocked and “stormed off” after he was given just three nuggets, telling an employment tribunal he was left feeling “antagonised” when he was told he could get three more for an extra 99p.

He “advised” the dinner lady that he was not a “kid” and “forcefully pushed the box back”, adding: “If I wanted a happy meal I would go to McDonald’s”.

A complaint from the dinner lady was submitted about his ‘unreasonable’ behaviour, saying it left her “almost afraid to come into work”, with her stomach “churning”. She reported that she knew the employee was angry by his attitude and by his tone.

The employer dismissed the HR advisor for gross misconduct, accusing him of having “acted violently”. However, the employment tribunal ruled in the claimant’s favour that he was unfairly dismissed, as the matter was not investigated properly. A significant factor in the investigation was that the claimant had explained he was on medication and had been working overtime for almost 12 hours. The tribunal stated that the company “placed significant weight” on the fact that he had been “red faced” making the dinner lady believe he was angry. 

The judge noted that the claimant had advised the investigator that he had health issues and that it was possible his complexion (and demeanour) could in some way, have been connected to his health.

The judge believed that the employer’s investigation fell outside the range of responses open to a reasonable employer and did not reflect the action of an employer acting fairly and reasonably on the facts of this case. 

As a result, the claimant was awarded £840 for unfair dismissal, £3,333.60 as compensation and £1,008 for notice pay/wrongful dismissal.

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