On September 9th 2022, Tesco was ordered to pay compensation of €15,000 to a worker who said he was forced to quit because of a “campaign of bullying” by a store manager.
Why did the Employee Win the Case?
The employee, who had worked for the supermarket since 2007, stated that problems first arose in 2015 when he refused an order to “manipulate” the supermarket’s clubcard system by putting points on to a blank card for the manager. The employee’s position was that the store manager “inferred” after this incident that he would “exact revenge on him”, which he said started when he was transferred from the store’s petrol station to the main premises in 2018.
During Christmas 2018, he was assigned to working on checkouts during the busiest period instead of working the duties of a team leader, which he said were performed by a general assistant instead.
In the Spring and Summer of 2019, the employee said he was “singled out” by the store manager over various issues. The employee said a drunk customer verbally abused him, threatening to “beat him up some night when he least expected it”. When he spoke to the store manager about the incident, his boss replied that his “only concern was for the store’s sales targets”.
The further bullying campaign included the store manager reprimanding Mr O’Dwyer for :
- Carrying his mobile phone on the shop floor even though team leaders and supervisors were permitted to do so
- Mr O’Dwyer being “berated” by the manager over cardboard boxes being left in view while he was carrying out other duties
- Being blamed for a customer walking off with €65 worth of groceries without paying
In September 2019, the employee asked his boss at a meeting what he could do to “prevent the constant barrage of criticisms, arguments and complaints”. To which, the store manager replied that they “did not argue but that they debated and that if he was not able for the debates, then he was not able for the job”.
The employee was then physically assaulted by the manager while opening up checkouts for till assistants during a busy period. He said the assault left him feeling humiliated.
After consistent, repeated incidents of bullying, the employee resigned from Tesco in July 2021.
An Irish Business Employers Confederation (Ibec) representative who appeared for Tesco Ireland, said the employee had lodged a grievance in December 2019 alleging that he had been subjected to “unacceptable behaviour in the workplace by the store manager”. The matter was investigated but ultimately Mr O’Dwyer’s allegations were not upheld.
Why was the employee awarded this amount?
The WRC adjudication officer in this case noted that Tesco had presented no direct evidence rebutting the bullying allegations or showing the store manager’s awareness of the firm’s policies on bullying and harassment. He wrote that the employees’ evidence had been “wholly credible” and that the bullying he outlined had been “sufficiently intolerable and injurious to his health as to constitute a significant breach of the employment contract”, adding that it was “unacceptable” that the manager had “placed his hand on the complainant” in the incident of 6 September 2019.
Tesco Ireland had acted unreasonably by failing to uphold the allegations against the store manager and that the employee had met the legal test for a case of constructive dismissal. Therefore, the employee was awarded €15,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.