Guru: Tribunal trawl digs up some real gems

The Times scored some points last week in its ongoing battle with the Daily Telegraph for Guru’s breakfast-time attention. To coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, The Times printed a list of the most interesting employment disputes of recent times. There were some old favourites and new gems for disciples to enjoy with their tea and toast.

Rubbed up wrong way

First, who could forget the 34-year-old masseuse who sued the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews for unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination after she was allegedly fired for accusing A-list actor Kevin Costner of removing his towel and asking her to “touch him everywhere“? Costner, who was on his honeymoon, denied the accusation. The hotel settled with the masseuse, who is presumably unfamiliar with such ‘happy endings’.

Porn again Christian

On the subject of touching everywhere, trainee chaplain, reverend Mark Sharpe, 37, left the Royal Navy because he was “horrified” by the amount of pornography below decks. Sharpe issued a claim for sexual harassment and discrimination on the ground of his religious beliefs. At a tribunal in Exeter, the Navy admitted sexual harassment, but denied the religious discrimination charge. Reverend Sharpe accepted an undisclosed sum in damages. Now a rural rector, Guru hopes Sharpe is steering clear of village newsagents.

Losing faith in incentives

Then there was the Muslim insurance salesman who took offence when his employer offered bottles of wine as an incentive. Imran Khan, 25, said Direct Line’s scheme put him at a disadvantage as his religion forbade him from drinking alcohol. He sought damages for “hurt feelings”. He lost the case but won Guru’s sympathy, as Yours Truly has often felt disadvantaged at work because of his beliefs regarding alcohol. Especially the morning after expressing them at his local hostelry.

Pottermania victim

Teaching assistant Sariya Allen quit her job and sued Durand Primary School in Stockwell, London, for allegedly discriminating against her Pentecostal Christian beliefs. She had been disciplined for refusing to let a child read a Harry Potter book, claiming it glorified witchcraft. She lost the case. Guru always thought Harry Potter glorified nerdy boys with not enough hair on their chest.

Red-faced Rendezvous

Ginger-haired Sarah Primmer, a 41-year-old former waitress at the Rendezvous Café in Plymouth, made headlines recently when she was awarded £17,618 for unfair dismissal and sexual harassment after suffering taunts over her flamed locks. Primmer alleged the café’s night manager had made lewd and embarrassing comments in front of other staff because “they wanted to know if the colour of my hair matched the rest of my body”. As a traditionalist, Guru has always been of the firm belief that collars and cuffs should match.

Post-dog depression

Postman David Portman successfully sued the Royal Mail for unfair dismissal after he lost his job for taking time off to mourn the death of his dog. The postman had missed 137 days in five years for reasons including breaking his foot pushing mail through a letter box, spraining his ankle when standing on a piece of wood, and being injured in a car accident. After failing to show up for a week following the death of his dog, Portman returned to find he had been sacked. A tribunal found that “none of the claimant’s absences were for other than wholly legitimate and genuine reasons”. Guru would write something funny here, but his goldfish looks a bit peaky.

Bish bash squash

One case escalated from a hard-to-locate bottle of lime cordial. Caroline Gardener, a lesbian shop worker at a Booker Cash and Carry, won her claim for unfair dismissal after she was fired following an altercation with a customer who couldn’t find the citrus squash. Gardner, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, claimed the customer abused her, telling her to “get your sex life sorted out”. She responded by throwing a bag of flour at him. “He then said: ‘You are a dyke and you’re going to get the sack’,” she claimed. Guru advises the customer in question that dandelion & burdock is an altogether more refreshing beverage.

Driving change

Finally, one of Guru’s favourites involved Fred Raine, who was awarded £2,300 after an industrial tribunal agreed that his former employer, Lee’s Coaches in Langley Moor, had underpaid him when he left the company due to illness in 2005. His former boss Malcolm Lee paid the first £1,000 by cheque. The remaining £1,300 turned up at his door in a crate of small change weighing 11 stone. Guru once entered Brighton Pier with a similar crate.

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