It’s pretty obvious really, but if an employee is dismissed and feels that they have been treated unjustly, they are likely to feel bitter towards their former employer. For those who have the required 2 years’ service to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, they potentially have a remedy through the Employment Tribunal system. However, a lot of employees without the necessary service are dismissed – some with good cause, others less so. Employees in that position often try to bring a claim for something which does not require any qualifying service, such as unlawful discrimination or sometimes whistleblowing. These claims often fail, but they are a real nuisance and cost to the employer in defending them (see our previous article ‘Dismissing employees with short service – traps for the unwary‘).
A recent incident demonstrated a different approach from a disgruntled former employee. Mr Jammeh worked for Total Security Service, who provided security staff to Tesco. Mr Jammeh worked in Tesco’s Reading superstore and was accused by Tesco of theft. Total Security Service dismissed him. Mr Jammeh protested his innocence, but to no avail. For the next 6 months he held a vigil outside the store with banners protesting his innocence. He claimed that the CCTV, which had been reviewed by the police, cleared him of any wrongdoing, but that Tesco and Total Security Service had ignored his claims. Clearly, a protester standing outside any employer’s premises holding banners alleging that they had been ill treated by the company is not good for publicity, but the demonstration initially gained little publicity. That was about to change!
Mr Jammeh decided to up his game. He managed to climb into the roof space of the store, causing Tesco to have to close the store for safety reasons, and attracting massive publicity, including being featured on BBC News. Mr Jammeh also used social media to publicise his position. He made it clear that he would not come down from the roof until Tesco agreed to review their original accusation, which, not surprisingly, they did. They told Mr Jammeh that they would review the situation and that he “may have been the subject of a significant injustice.” With this promise made, Mr Jammeh ended his roof protest.
This whole incident illustrates that treating an employee unfairly can have consequences which go far beyond any legal remedy. Tesco are big enough to be able to cope with this type of incident, but even they were clearly aware of the adverse publicity and moved to defuse the issue as quickly as they could. The message though is clear – employees do not only have legal remedies to perceived injustices, and when things become viral what was a private dispute can become very public very quickly. If you are considering a dismissal it is always a good idea to seek advice first – a quick phone call to one of our team could help avoid trouble further down the line.
Finally, as a footnote, Mr Jammeh was fined £20 for aggravated trespass. I am sure he considers that a small price to pay.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).