Sainsburys worker was unfairly dismissed after calling boss an idiot

The Employment Tribunal has ruled that Sainsbury’s acted unfairly when it dismissed one of its workers after she had called her boss a “young idiot” on Facebook.

The tribunal heard that 68-year-old Ms A Spence had worked for the supermarket chain for 24 years and had never before faced disciplinary action.

In 2017, her daughter created a Facebook page for her, which she thought could only be seen by friends and family. However, when she posted a comment describing her new manager, Mr McBride, as a young idiot, it was seen by a work colleague who took a screen shot and alerted senior management.

Spence faced a disciplinary hearing for bringing the company into disrepute and breaching fair treatment and equality policies.

The hearing was chaired by customer trading manager Ms Fraser, who issued a final written warning letter on 24 October 2018, which remained active for 12 months. 

In January 2019, Spence raised concerns that Fraser was in a relationship with McBride at the same time she was conducting the disciplinary process.

Fraser then raised a formal complaint against her for asking questions about when Fraser and McBride had entered a relationship.

The issue was investigated by a manager at another store, Ms Mitchell, who upheld Fraser’s complaint.

Spence faced a further hearing chaired by operations manager Mr Hogg, who dismissed her for misconduct.

She brought a claim of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in her favour.

Judge Amanda Jones said that even a final written warning was “manifestly inappropriate” and Hogg’s conclusion of misconduct justifying dismissal was “fundamentally flawed”. It was “not within the band of reasonable responses and therefore unfair”.

The tribunal found that at some point towards the end of 2019, Fraser and McBride were in a relationship but at no point in the disciplinary investigation were they asked when the relationship began or whether it existed at the time when Fraser carried out the disciplinary proceedings against Spence.

She added “While it was clear that Spence had become a thorn in the side of the managers to whom she reported, the tribunal did not accept that raising genuine and valid questions as to whether a manager who had issued her with a final written warning had a conflict of interest at the relevant time amounted to blameworthy conduct.”

Spence was awarded £8,357 compensation.

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