Man sacked for complaining after only getting three chicken nuggets in canteen
An HR advisor has won a £5k payout for wrongful dismissal after he was sacked for complaining about the company's chicken nugget portions.
Steven Smith, 30, claims he was left left "shocked and disillusioned" after getting just three chicken nuggets for lunch in the office canteen of the company support firm where he worked.
The dissatisfied customer questioned a dinner lady as to why other members of staff were getting four or five nuggets, he said he felt "antagonised" when he was told he could get three more for an extra 99p, an employment tribunal heard.
Smith "advised" the dinner lady he was not a "kid" and "if I wanted a happy meal I would go to McDonald’s" and pushed the meal back towards her.
He claims: "I showed nothing more than dissatisfaction at which said canteen lady should have offered to raise a complaint.
"However, she did not do this and instead antagonised me by stating if I wanted more I would be charged an extra £1 for 3 chicken nuggets. Due to further shock and dissatisfaction, I advised if I wanted a happy meal I would go to McDonald's.
"I said the meal was supposed to be subsidised – not the portion size.
"It is not my fault that this canteen lady did [not] see or understand my dissatisfaction. She should have acknowledged my dissatisfaction and raised a complaint."
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The woman then filed a complaint against him, claiming that the incident left her stomach "churning" and "almost afraid to come into work".
She said: "I knew he was angry by his attitude and by his tone and language changed. He was not shouting but he was louder than he had previously been.
"I could tell by his face also. My stomach was churning at this."
He was later fired for gross misconduct after the company found he "acted violently".
However, the tribunal has concluded he was unfairly dismissed as the matter was not investigated properly by bosses.
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The panel, headed by employment judge David Hoey, concluded: "The company placed significant weight on the evidence given of Mr Smith’s demeanour and how they believed he had been angry, such as red-faced, creating anxiety.
"Mr Smith had advised the investigator he had health issues and it was possible his complexion (and demeanour) could in some way have been connected to his health (or indeed hunger or exasperation) rather than in a way that was adverse as was being suggested.
"The information as to Mr Smith’s demeanour was relatively brief and lacking in detail. Despite that, considerable weight was placed upon it in concluding that the claimant was guilty of the allegation."
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He went on: "The sarcastic remark about a happy meal is not by itself abusive nor rude. For some, the comment may have been positive depending upon their food preferences. For others, it may have been negative.
"The investigation that was carried out was one that no employer acting fairly and reasonably on the facts of this case would have carried out."
Smith will now be awarded £840 for unfair dismissal, £3,333.60 as compensation and £1,008 for notice pay/wrongful dismissal – bringing the total sum to £5,181.60.
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