A former Waitrose store worker with 17 years of service has won around £47,000 in compensation after the Employment Tribunal judged his dismissal to be unfair. The case concerned a strange text message interaction between the worker and his manager.
The Claimant sent a series of bizarre texts to his manager about a knife which the worker claimed were a joke. The manager perceived the texts as a threat and the matter escalated which included the police searching the worker. Despite the lack of further police involvement or a formal complaint from the manager following the incident, Waitrose investigated the matter, held a formal hearing and summarily dismissed the worker. The worker appealed, but his appeal was rejected.
The Employment Tribunal considered that the process followed by Waitrose was fair but that the decision to summarily dismiss on the basis that “clearly bizarre, unexplained and arguably stupid text messages” posed a threat, was outside the band of reasonable responses. Waitrose had not considered the surrounding circumstances sufficiently or considered a “sanction short of dismissal such as a final written warning”.
The case illustrates that following correct practice and procedures alone is not always sufficient when dealing with employment issues. The circumstances of each case much be thoroughly investigated, and the employer’s response tailored to the facts.
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