A security guard has won his unfair dismissal claim against Harrods in the latest refreshment-related employment tribunal case to hit the luxury department store. This defeat follows the case of a restaurant supervisor who was sacked for eating a slice of chocolate cake a customer had rejected. That employee sought £2m in compensation, although the result has not been reported.
The story of the security guard and the cup of coffee began when Mr Perrett refused to allow a more senior employee to bring a coffee into the shop, in accordance with company policy. A colleague of Mr Perrett reported that the guard dealt with the situation amicably, explaining that he didn’t make the rules but had to enforce them. The other employee reacted badly to these apparently reasonable actions, and asked to see Mr Perrett’s ID badge so she “could tell Sarah Andrews [Harrods’s HR and Retail Director] who was responsible for her not getting her coffee”.
After Harrods changed their policy (apparently in the wake of numerous objections from staff), the employee that Mr Perrett had confronted made a complaint about the incident. She alleged that Mr Perrett had been “aggressive, dismissive, patronising and rude”. Mr Perrett said that the employee had launched a “witch-hunt” against him, supported by mid-level and senior managers. He said that Harrods had a “culture of elitism” that prevents security guards from doing their jobs.
The Tribunal decided in Mr Perrett’s favour regarding his complaint of unfair dismissal, but it rejected his health and safety and sex discrimination claims. Harrods commented that the Tribunal found “Mr Perrett’s allegations of conspiracy and lies against Harrods employees …[to be] unfounded and unsubstantiated”.
Although not a total victory for Mr Perrett, the case does serve as a cautionary tale to employers that personal disputes between employees can easily become their problem. Complaints about other employees’ conduct should be treated with caution, and care should be taken to evaluate each party’s account regardless of their position in the company.