Tesco's bill over 'black' comment to Limerick store employee

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

A man has been awarded €24,000 after a Tesco store manager in Limerick made an “inappropriate” comment during an “outburst”

A man has been awarded €24,000 after a Tesco store manager in Limerick made an “inappropriate” comment during an “outburst”

AN AFRICAN man has been awarded €24,000 at an Employment Appeals Tribunal after a Tesco store manager in Limerick made an “inappropriate” comment during an “outburst”.

Former security officer Nicolas Alayi lodged a complaint against Tesco Ireland Ltd, following his resignation after he became “ill as a result of the respondent’s treatment of him”.

Mr Alayi had been working at a Tesco branch in Limerick between August 2007 and January 2015.

The claimant was represented by solicitor Cathal Minihane, Barrington Street, at a hearing on April 26, 2016. 

The Tribunal heard that on the morning of May 23, 2014, the store manager shouted “aggressively” at Mr Alayi, telling him “not to let anyone into the cigarette room”.

The manager also said “would you let a black stranger into that room”, the Tribunal heard. Mr Alayi’s team leader “was close by and overheard the aggression”. 

On a separate occasion, My Alayi sought time off at his own expense “for family reasons”. The store manager “refused him this request and he was unhappy with this”.

It was later granted by the personnel manager, the Tribunal heard. 

A full investigation was launched and carried out by the group personnel manager, after the complainant attended a grievance meeting with the union in July 2014. 

Findings, relayed to Mr Alayi by letter on August 28, 2014, found that the store manager “did make ‘inappropriate’ comments”. 

However, personnel manager could not substantiate if these comments were made with racial intent”. The claimant appealed his grievance. 

The hearing took place on October 10, carried out by another store manager. It was found the comment was “inappropriate but not racially based”.  

Mr Alayi was offered an alternative role in another store, but he felt this was “unfair”. The Tribunal heard that Mr Alayi “became ill as a result of the respondent’s treatment of him”. 

During his absence, he hand-delivered medical certificates at the store but the store manager “avoided making contact with him and that the claimant was still being made to feel he had done something wrong”, the Tribunal was told. 

It was also heard that the store manager “never gave the claimant an apology, which had been twice recommended by the respondent”.

The store manager told the claimant that if he returned to work, the claimant would be looked after and that he would feel safe in the workplace. 

The respondent stated that he was told that he could return to work on shorter hours and support mechanisms would be in place in the store”. 

The respondent stated that two days before the resignation, the union requested a transfer form but this was not completed.

The Tribunal found the “lack of action by the respondent inexplicable”.

“The Tribunal does not understand how the respondent found the offending comment as ‘inappropriate’ but not racially based.

“Subsequently, no action was taken by the respondent to ensure that the apology was forthcoming.”

Succeeding in his claim, it was recommended by the Tribunal that Mr Alayi be awarded €24,000.