News Shop Worker Unfairly Dismissed After Complaint

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Shop worker unfairly dismissed after complaint
19th January 2022

By David Rees

A worker at an Essex pet food business was harassed due to her age and sex and unfairly dismissed after raising concerns over inadequate Covid safety measures, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Leigh Best was dismissed as a sales assistant for pet food retailer Embark on Raw, based near Billericay, Essex on May 11, 2020, having been employed by the company since January 29 of that year.

David and Andrea Fletcher, the firm’s co-directors, said she was dismissed due to her “rude and confrontational communication with co-workers and managers”. But the tribunal panel ruled that the main reason for her dismissal was because she made protected disclosures, known as “whistleblowing”, during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, when she claimed that the safety procedures devised by the company were not being enforced and that co-workers were not wearing face coverings or following social distancing guidelines. When she expressed her concerns, she was told to be “realistic and not paranoid”, the panel heard.

Her employers maintained she had been given a verbal warning about her behaviour, but the panel found this was not confirmed in writing or correctly recorded. The panel also heard David Fletcher made inappropriate and derogatory comments to Leigh about her age and sex, including that he had shouted “she must be on her menopause” on March 20, 2020, during an argument about a mix-up with orders.

The panel concluded that Leigh was less favourably treated after raising safety concerns and that “Mr Fletcher invaded the claimant’s privacy, broached a highly sensitive topic for her and acted tactlessly.”

A further hearing to decide any compensation is scheduled for January 31.