Facts of the case

Gabriela Rodriguez worked as a cleaner at the offices of Devonshires Solicitors for two years, via contractor Total Clean. She claims she was sacked last year after Devonshires complained that leftover sandwiches were not being returned. She admits eating a £1.50 leftover tuna sandwich, which she thought would be thrown away. Ms Rodriguez is part of United Voices of the World union (UVW), which claims that cleaners (most of whom are migrant workers) are “routinely dismissed on trivial and […] discriminatory grounds. Many describe feeling like the dirt they clean.”

UVW claims Devonshires would not have complained about Ms Rodriguez if she was not a Latin American with limited English. She has brought claims for unfair dismissal and direct race discrimination against Total Clean, and direct and/or indirect race discrimination against Devonshires Solicitors. Devonshires deny that they made any complaint about Ms Rodriguez and Total Clean maintains that it followed a proper process before dismissing her.

Takeaways

It is difficult to comment on the rights or wrongs of the case without having more detail about what exactly happened. However, it would seem the rules that applied to Ms Rodriguez may not have been clear enough. Many employees would not consider eating a sandwich they believe will otherwise be thrown away as dishonest.  If it counts as dishonesty in your organisation, you should make that clear.

It remains to be seen whether Ms Rodriguez will succeed with her claims or if the matter will even reach a full hearing in the tribunal – but it is certainly one to keep an eye on!

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