A Sainsbury’s worker who called her boss a “young idiot” has been awarded more than £8,000 after an employment tribunal ruled she’d been unfairly dismissed.
The ex-employee, known only as Miss A Spence, aged 68, made the comment about her manager on Facebook.
Miss Spence – who had worked for the supermarket for 24 years – argued that she didn’t realise the message could be seen publicly, and thought she was contacting a former colleague privately.
The tribunal heard she was later fired after she questioned whether the disciplinary manager was in a romantic relationship with the manager referenced in the Facebook comment.
Miss Spence told the hearing that her Facebook profile had been set up by her daughter in 2017, and she thought all her posts would be private.
She had also asked her daughter to remove references of her Sainsbury’s employment online, but she didn’t.
On 8 September 2018, Miss Spence wrote a comment about her new manager in reply to a post from a former colleague.
Miss Spence wrote: “We r having problems at work with new manager he’s a young idiot hasn’t got a clue how to run the department will tell u about it next time I c u take care.”
The tribunal heard only seven other people could see the post, but the message was screenshotted by another manager who shared it with the senior management team.
An investigation was launched after the Facebook post came to light, followed by a subsequent disciplinary hearing.
After receiving a final warning in October 2018, Miss Spence issued a complaint over unfair treatment at work against the manager who shared the screenshot of her Facebook comment, which was not upheld.
She also raised another complaint against the manager she wrote about for “discrimination” regarding a disability – but this was also dismissed.
The tribunal ruled Sainsbury’s “did not follow its processes” when dealing with her grievances as there were no meetings held.
Speaking to her union representative in January 2019, Miss Spence later raised concerns that the manager she wrote about was in a relationship with the customer trading manager who chaired her disciplinary hearing.
The manager who chaired the meeting then raised a formal fair treatment complaint against Miss Spence, following the questions about the relationship status.
This grievance was handled by a manager at another store who invited Miss Spence to discuss her misconduct – resulting in a disciplinary meeting in April 2019 and ultimately, her dismissal.
The tribunal noted that the operations manager who chaired this meeting was “unwilling to listen” to Miss Spence’s claims that she had been bullied and did not investigate her accusations.
The judge said even a final written warning was “manifestly inappropriate”.
Judge A Jones said: “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 [Spence] 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.”
Miss Spence – who worked at the Sainsbury’s Cameron Toll premises in Edinburgh from 1995 until 2019 – was awarded a total of £8,357.20.
This was made up of a basic award of £3,390 and compensation of £4,867.20. Claims for unpaid holiday pay were not upheld.
The Mirror has contacted Sainsbury’s for comment.
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