Sainsbury’s employee ‘unfairly dismissed’ over headphones
Published: 25 January 2018
The Employment Tribunal has ruled that Sainsbury’s acted unfairly when it dismissed one of its employees for persistently wearing headphones while working.
Victor Onyike had worked for the retailer for several years
as a commercial assistant in the delivery yard. It was classified as a
high-risk area because of the number of lorries crossing and reversing to
There were warning signs alerting staff to the potential
dangers and advising caution, but there was no specific mention of headphones.
In March 2017, a manager saw Mr Onyike wearing headphones
and told him take them off. A week later, a deputy manager saw that he was
still wearing them.
Mr Onyike was asked to attend a meeting to address health
and safety issues. He admitted wearing the headphones but said there was no
hazard because they were turned off.
There were further disciplinary meetings over the next few
weeks. At one he apologised and said he would not wear them again. However, at
a later meeting, he said he didn’t think there was any danger as he had a high
visibility jacket that would enable drivers to see him.
He was later sacked. He brought a claim of Unfair Dismissal
and the Employment Tribunal ruled in his favour.
Employment Judge Hall-Smith said: “I did not consider that
in all the circumstances the claimant’s conduct, albeit involving an element of
risk, involved a serious failure to follow company health and safety
“The Claimant understood the importance of wearing a high
viz jacket but the wearing of
headphones had not been identified by the Respondent (Sainsbury’s) as a health and safety issue.
“I have concluded that although the Claimant’s conduct in my
judgment justified a high level of sanction, such as a final written warning,
in all the circumstances the sanction of dismissal did not amount to one which
a reasonable employer would have awarded.”
However, the judge also said that Mr Onyike was 80%
responsible for his dismissal and so his compensation should be reduced
accordingly when it was decided at a separate hearing.
Please contact Matthew Sigsworth in our Dispute Resolution Team if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of Employment Law.