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Employee Sacked For 'Violence' Over Chicken Nugget Meal Wins £5,000 Payout

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Employee Sacked For 'Violence' Over Chicken Nugget Meal Wins £5,000 Payout

A HR advisor has won more than £5,000 after he was sacked for complaining about only getting three chicken nuggets for lunch.

Dissatisfied Steven Smith was left 'shocked' and 'disillusioned' at the size of the £1.99 portion he was handed in the office canteen, an employment tribunal heard.

Mr Smith felt so hard done by that he queried why others were getting four or five nuggets and said he felt 'antagonised' when he was told he could get three more for an extra 99p.

Dismayed, the then 30-year-old 'advised' the dinner lady he was not a 'kid' and said: "If I wanted a Happy Meal I would go to McDonalds," before pushing the meal back towards her and leaving the canteen.

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The woman said the incident left her stomach 'churning' and 'almost afraid to come into work'.

She complained about his behaviour and Mr Smith was later sacked for gross misconduct after the company found he 'acted violently'.

But the tribunal has concluded he was unfairly dismissed as the matter was not investigated properly by bosses and he will now be awarded £5,181.60.

Credit: Flickr/James Palinsad
Credit: Flickr/James Palinsad
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The Glasgow hearing was told how Mr Smith began working in the human resources department of the company which is based in Airdrie, Scotland, in November 2016.

The incident in question took place in September 2019 when Mr Smith headed to the canteen and had asked for chicken nuggets, chips, beans and cheese.

Giving evidence at the tribunal, the canteen worker 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."

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She then reported the incident as the kitchen staff found his behaviour 'unreasonable' and he was brought in for a disciplinary meeting to discuss the allegation that he had 'assaulted' a canteen assistant.

Credit: Creative Commons/yoppy
Credit: Creative Commons/yoppy

In the meeting, Mr Smith said: "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 McDonalds."

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He went on: "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.

"However instead we are in this situation where I am being falsely accused, all because I have somehow offended this woman of which was not the intent as I showed dissatisfaction at which was present to me not by whom it was presented."

After a second disciplinary hearing Mr Smith was sacked because of his conduct.

He later appealed this decision as he felt the canteen worker had a 'vendetta' against him and did not attend the appeal meeting as he did not feel well and was worried he would be 'accused of doing something he had not' if he came into the office.

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But the tribunal - held remotely - concluded the company's investigation 'fell out with the range of responses open to a reasonable employer'.

The panel, headed by employment judge David Hoey, concluded: "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.

"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."

Mr Smith will be awarded £840 for unfair dismissal, £3,333.60 as compensation and £1,008 for notice pay/wrongful dismissal.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons/yoppy

Topics: Food, Community, Chicken Nuggets

Rebecca Shepherd
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