Male chef in sex discrimination case

An employment tribunal has found that an employee was unfairly dismissed after alleging that a ‘clique’ of female superiors had ‘colluded’ against him, leading to them ‘trying to force him out’. A chef in a nursery, the employee’s managers expressed concerns that the nursery wasn’t meeting ‘parents’ requirements’ to have cakes baked for special occasions and that the chef was not ‘providing appropriate food to the children’.

He was placed on a performance improvement plan but after the nursery was forced to shut its doors due to the pandemic, several serious allegations were made on the company’s whistleblowing hotline about the female management team. The tribunal heard that members of the team came to believe that the claimant was responsible for raising concerns.

In July 2020, he was told he was being investigated for possible misconduct. The allegations against him included that in February 2020, children and staff in the Baby Room had made a birthday cake for one of his colleagues and gave him the batter to bake. But he ‘failed to adequately check’ on it and it burnt and told his colleagues had thrown it away.

The employers suggested to the panel that he had ‘deliberately allowed the cake to burn’. On Valentine’s Day, the claimant was accused of making heart-shaped shortbread biscuits for the staff ‘of his own volition,’ but ‘deliberately’ left out two staff members ‘due to not liking them’. Despite his denials of wrongdoing, his managers decided to dismiss him.

He is now set for compensation after his claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination were upheld with the tribunal ruling the misconduct allegations against him were ‘trivial’.

The panel ruled that the investigation into these incidents was ‘not reasonable’ and excluded information that supported the claim there was a ‘friendship group which was colluding against him’.

The Employment Judge said: ‘Collectively these sorts of incidents at their height could be regarded as targeting individuals or of excluding them and would certainly cause an employer to need to take some sort of managerial action, potentially formal action but they did not have the potential to amount to gross misconduct either singly or collectively.

‘We conclude that the claimant did not behave in a way which justified the respondent terminating his contract without notice.’The tribunal also ruled in his favour on several claims of victimisation and sexual discrimination.

The compensation payment will be determined at a later remedy hearing.

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