6ft Tesco worker wins £50,000 payout after he was ‘falsely imprisoned and intimidated’ by his pregnant 5ft4 boss
A six-foot tall Tesco worker has won just almost £50,000 in a sex discrimination case after he was trapped in a room and ‘intimidated’ by his 5ft 4ins female boss.
Toby King’s complaints that manager Jo Francis ‘falsely imprisoned’ him at work were ridiculed by bosses who thought ‘a big man’ couldn’t be frightened by a ‘little pregnant woman’.
But a tribunal ruled he was a victim of sex discrimination as his bosses didn’t take Mr King’s complaint seriously because of the difference in size.
The supermarket giant has now been ordered to pay him a total of £47,690.61 in compensation, including more than £31,000 for ‘injury to feelings’.
Ms Francis, who was five months pregnant at the time, put her ‘foot against the door’ and ‘physically prevented’ Mr King from leaving the room during a discussion about him working extra hours, an employment tribunal heard.
Mr King was ‘vulnerable’ as he suffered from PTSD after he was ‘held hostage’ while working for the Prison Service – and Tesco managers including Ms Francis knew about his condition.
Toby King, a six-foot tall Tesco worker has won just almost £50,000 in a sex discrimination case after he was trapped in a room and ‘intimidated’ by his 5ft 4ins female boss (file picture)
He was later sacked after he continually failed to show up for work, saying the incident had triggered a ‘relapse’ and meant he couldn’t leave the house ‘without crying’.
The Watford tribunal heard Mr King began working as a customer assistant at a Tesco store in Aylesbury, Bucks, in May 2018.
It was told he also had another job with Aylesbury Fire Service and was studying to become an electrician.
Mr King had periods of absence at work due to a change in his PTSD medication and Ms Francis knew he suffered from the condition after his ‘bad experience’ with the Prison Service, the tribunal was told.
In December 2018, Mr King was ‘berated’ on the shop floor by her for being ‘inflexible’ in offering ‘additional hours in the run up to Christmas’.
He told the tribunal this was ‘a slap in the face’ as he had tried to be ‘as flexible as he could be’ whilst balancing his other commitments.
Later that day Mr King agreed to talk with Ms Francis in a staff room to discuss his attitude in regards to working additional shifts.
But during the meeting, Mr King told his line manager he felt ‘uncomfortable’ staying in the room with her and went to ‘open the door to leave’.
Toby King said manager Jo Francis, who is 5ft4 and was pregnant at the time, prevented him from leaving a meeting about Christmas shifts at the Tesco branch in Aylesbury, Bucks
Ms Francis ‘put her hand out towards the door’ to prevent it from opening and put her foot ‘against the door’, before ‘putting her hand’ on Mr King’s arm and ‘holding him’ as he tried to exit through the ‘partially open door’.
CCTV stills of the incident were provided to the tribunal.
A tribunal report said: ‘The way that Mr King seems from the photos to squeeze out of the door is consistent with him having become increasingly anxious and borderline desperate to get out of the room.’
An ‘upset’ Mr King went to another manager after leaving the room, asking ‘what gave Ms Francis the right not to let me go?’.
A meeting was later held with another manager, who ‘dismissed’ Mr King’s claims because he thought ‘Ms Francis, as a pregnant woman, would not have behaved that way’.
Manager Joe O’Halloran didn’t bother checking the CCTV as he presumed ‘as a heavily pregnant woman Ms Francis was quite vulnerable and would have avoided any form of physical altercation at all costs to protect her baby’.
Mr O’Halloran told the tribunal: ‘I’m merely saying that [it was] someone who is a larger person, Mr King, versus a smaller person…
‘Ms Francis was in a vulnerable position… [It is] reasonable to assume that someone wouldn’t want to put herself in harm’s way.’
Employment Judge Judith George said: ‘It is clear… that Mr O’Halloran did not regard Mr King’s complaint seriously.’
Store manager Lee Murphy claimed he did not think Ms Francis was ‘threatening at all’.
Judge George ruled that managers were ‘influenced’ by ‘relative size’ – ‘by Mr King being a big man and Ms Francis a small pregnant woman’.
The judge added: ‘Ms Francis did not think Mr King would be intimidated by her or ‘would take seriously’ her actions in the room because he was a 6ft man and she a 5ft 4ins woman.
Mr King was signed off as ‘unfit to work’ by his GP in February 2019 and despite providing Tesco with sick notes, he was dismissed the following month for unauthorised absences and ‘failure to keep in touch’ after he didn’t attend a disciplinary meeting.
Tesco claimed notes weren’t received.
Judge George ruled Tesco had not reasonably investigated Ms Francis’ conduct and the allegations of intimidation and harassment against her, and had subjected Mr King to harassment related to sex by dismissing him.
Judge George said a female employee in the same situation as Mr King would not have been dismissed.
‘There was no gross misconduct such as to justify a summary dismissal’, the judge concluded.