A Subway franchise employee whose manager acted with hostility after she raised concerns about food hygiene practices has been awarded more than £12,000 at an employment tribunal for harassment and unfair dismissal.
Ms Reilly worked as a “sandwich artist” at a Subway franchise in a Glasgow petrol station. The franchise was run by RT Management Bridgeton, which employed the claimant and operated a number of franchises across the country.
Upon joining, she made the company aware that she had several allergies, for which she carried an EpiPen, and was undergoing medical investigations related to some health concerns.
The company completed a medical assessment when she started work. She raised concerns that this did not include all of her health problems and was told that the declaration could only contain information about the conditions she had been diagnosed with.
Ms Reilly was concerned about the lack the steps her employer had taken to minimise Covid-19 risk. There was no signage encouraging face masks or social distancing, no screens, no enhanced cleaning procedures and promotional material at the till that could not be cleaned.
Her manager, Mr Lahar, provided training when she began her role. The claimant raised a number of concerns with him, including the lack of protective equipment, the lack of a sanitary bin in the toilet, being unable to take rest breaks, and having to clean up on her own at the end of a shift. She said that she had been able to take rest breaks when she was employed at another Subway franchise beforehand and said that additional cleaning should be carried out throughout the day during the pandemic.
Over the course of her employment, Lahar made disparaging comments about Reilly’s appearance, and made negative comments relating to her having to undergo medical investigations and her allergies.
He tried to get her to eat food she was allergic to, allegedly stating: “Go on, what’s the worst that could happen?”. When she objected, he said “NASA should send you back to Mars”.
When she disclosed that she was vegan, Lahar made jokes and encouraged her to handle and eat meat. She raised concerns that a customer who had ordered a vegan sandwich had been given dairy cheese. She said it was dangerous to serve somebody a product they could be allergic to and morally wrong to serve dairy products to somebody who was vegan. Lahar made light of these comments.
There was a single toilet available to staff who worked at the petrol station, which did not have a sanitary waste bin. She claimed she was required to come out of the toilet and find a suitable bin to dispose of used sanitary products in front of customers, which she found embarrassing. When she raised the issue with Lahar, he told her she was “the only female of menstruating age who used the toilet” and that she should dispose of the sanitary products in the kitchen bin.
Other concerns raised by the claimant included the rubber gloves not being long enough for use in deep sinks, which exacerbated her skin problems, and leftover food not being disposed of when it should have been. When food reached its use by date, Lahar allegedly printed off another label with a later date and continued to serve out of date products to customers.
She claimed that Lahar did not seek to rectify any of her concerns. She contacted the local environmental health department and an inspector visited the premises. Although she had raised the concerns anonymously, Lahar worked out that Reilly had made the complaint.
In September 2020, she had £12.60 deducted from her wages. When she queried what the deduction related to, she was told that it was because a customer had cancelled a large JustEat order and that the money would be returned to her once the credit was received by the firm’s head office. Reilly claimed she never received the money.
Reilly’s employment was terminated by phone call in October 2020. She was told she had not passed her probation.
She took a claim for automatic unfair dismissal for making protected disclosures to the employment tribunal. She said she was dismissed because she had raised concerns about health and safety practices and entitlement to rest breaks. She relied upon the timing of her dismissal and the hostile environment she had experienced after the visit from environmental health.
Nobody from the respondent appeared at the tribunal hearing in June 2022. Evidence presented at the hearing suggested it had ceased trading earlier this year.
Employment Judge Claire McManus awarded the claimant £12,636.40 in compensation, including awards for unfair dismissal, injury to feelings, unauthorised deduction from wages and breach of the Working Time Regulations 1998.