Unfair dismissal – McDonalds waitress wins her case

In a recent case that has hit the news a McDonalds employee has pursued a claim for Unfair Dismissal against her former employer in the Employment Tribunal.

Sarah Finch had been employed by McDonalds for 18 months when she was dismissed after giving a generous portion of chocolate on a McFlurry she sold to a colleague. The colleague had apparently asked her to be ‘generous’.

Miss Finch’s case was apparently based on the fact that there is no guidance provided on the portions that they must give, and that this matter was of a trivial nature, and therefore not reasonable to dismiss her.

It is reported that McDonald’s case was that they have a clear policy on giving away free food, and this was breached by Miss Finch. They considered this to be a serious breach and it amounted to gross misconduct.

Following her dismissal, Miss Finch pursued a claim in the Employment Tribunal and prior to the matter reaching a hearing in the Employment Tribunal a settlement has been reached. It is reported that the value of the settlement is £3,000 however the terms of the settlement are confidential.

Unfortunately as this matter was settled beforehand we will never know the full extent of the details of the case, nor will we hear what the Employment Tribunal think of the matter.

The law on unfair dismissal states that it is unfair to dismiss an employee unless the employer has one of five fair reasons for dismissal namely;

1)      Conduct

2)      Capability, i.e. you are unable to do your job

3)      Redundancy

4)      You cannot undertake your job because of a legal restriction, i.e. your are a taxi driver and you lose your driving licence

5)      Some other substantial reason, this reason mops up various circumstances that do not fall into 1-4 above. The reason must however be substantial and not trivial in nature.

Even if the Employer has one of the fair reasons above the Employment Tribunal will look at whether the Employer has acted in a reasonable manner in deciding to dismiss and also if they have followed a fair procedure, i.e. investigating the matter and inviting to a meeting.

Based on the limited information that is available in this case my feeling is that if this was the first time Miss Finch had been reprimanded for giving away generous portions and she had a clean disciplinary record, it is likely to have been unreasonable for McDonalds to move straight to dismissing her.

Unfair dismissal cases are all very fact sensitive and difficult to find any two cases that are the same, when deciding to pursue a claim it is therefore necessary to consider what happened and analyse the facts and evidence in each case.

For more information about unfair dismissal check out our ‘Unfair Dismissal’ on the website.

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