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Harrods Employee Loses Unfair Dismissal Case

An employee who tried to claim £1 million from Harrods has lost his unfair dismissal case after he was sacked for eating a slice chocolate cake.

Juan Mackenzie, who worked as the restaurant supervisor, was sacked for eating a piece of Devil’s Dog Cake after it was sent back by a customer who complained that the cake was too dry. The cake, which was worth £7.50 was then eaten by Mr Mackenzie.

The incident, which according to Mr Mackenzie left him “a broken man” is not the first case of misconduct involving Harrods in recent times. In June 2015, a kitchen supervisor was suspended. She was accused of theft after trying to take home a half-eaten dinner. Anthea Harding was suspended and given her job back after an online petition to reinstate her.

Harrods Unfair Dismissal Case

Juan Mackenzie, who earned up to £2000 at Harrods, claimed that he was merely sampling the cake to taste it and see if the customer’s complaint was valid. Harrods argued, however, that he had eaten the cake rather than tasting it, with two witnesses stating that Mr Mackenzie had eaten the entire piece. According to Harrods, this counted as gross misconduct, with the company dismissing Mr Mackenzie on two counts of theft.

Mr Mackenzie alleges that he was discriminated against in the lead up to his unfair dismissal from the Godiva Cafe. He alleged that he was discriminated against due to his age, sex and race. However, a spokesman for Harrods said: “None of his claims of race, sex and age discrimination, were raised during his disciplinary and all were decisively rejected by the tribunal.”

His claim was dismissed by the Central London Employment Tribunal.

Grounds for Dismissal

While many employees believe that their dismissal is unfair, there are grounds where an employer can rightfully sack a member of staff. However, it is important that when dismissing an employee, a solicitor or some witnesses are present. Dismissals are deemed fair if an employer can prove that the dismissal occurred as a result of an employee's conduct; if they were performing poorly at their job; or if the member of staff was being made redundant. Employees can also be dismissed if a statutory right restricted them from working, with gross misconduct, theft and any breach of contract also potentially resulting in a fair dismissal. Like any sort of claim, however, it is vital to have as much evidence as possible to support your claim and take the necessary steps when dismissing an employee to ensure you are protected from legal action.

An employee will be able to take legal action if a dismissal is a result of maternity or paternity leave, family reasons, a dispute over minimal pay. They will also be able to take action if they are dismissed for taking approved union action or approved annual leave.

How to Protect Your Company From Unfair Dismissal Action

There are many ways that your firm can protect themselves from unfair dismissals and any legal action. If a situation arises where you must dismiss an employee, it is important that you do it in the correct manner. Through taking time and following the correct procedures, you can ensure that you are making the right decision for the correct reasons and that you do not run the risk of being involved in a legal battle.

If dismissing an employee for theft or misconduct, it is important you investigate the alleged incident by taking notes, interviewing people involved and taking appropriate action by suspending the candidate with full pay. It should be made clear that any action is not a disciplinary suspension but rather just a precaution. It is important that the issue is investigated before a proper punishment. If any issue is found, a disciplinary meeting should be set up with an impartial officer. Both sides should have the opportunity to speak, and notes should be taken. Often, at these meetings, a solicitor – or a KLG officer – should be present to ensure that nothing occurs that could be deemed as unfair.

Following the meeting, it is important to reconvene and take time over the matter. Rushing the decision means that more mistakes could be made, and more issues could be overlooked. All notes should be copied and maintained, with a copy given to the person who could be dismissed. If they are to be dismissed it is important to inform them of their rights and their right to appeal.

To evade any embroilment in legal action, you should aim to keep informed about the latest employment law developments and legal issues as well as conducting regular risk assessments. Ensure that staff contracts are accurate, up to date, and reflect their role in the company. You should inform members of staff what constitutes as misconduct and what could result in job losses.

Contact Us

At KLG, we are employment law experts and specialise in all aspects of employment law. If you require the advice of our specialists to ensure that all disputes are handled appropriately, click here to contact us today.

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