Former manager at Big Green Egg firm wins tribunal case after being ‘bullied’ by his American boss

A former manager at a barbecue firm – whose products have been promoted by A-listers such as David Beckham and Liz Hurley – has won a tribunal claim after making bullying allegations against his American ex-boss.  

Gavin Ford, 40, claimed his boss David Ezrine blasted ‘you f*****g British people would line up if a sign told you to jump off a cliff’ during a foul-mouthed rant over a PowerPoint presentation. 

At the time, Mr Ford was employed as an E-commerce manager at Hampshire-based Alfresco Concepts.

The company is the UK firm behind Big Green Egg – the upmarket barbeque brand that sells its ceramic products at £3,000-a-piece.

The brand boasts a number of high-profile fans, including Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and a host of top celebrities, including This Morning host Holly Willoughby.  

But Mr Ford said he was ‘bullied’ by his then boss after flagging concerns about changes to GDPR laws, before being sacked for ‘gross misconduct’ in 2018.

The company claimed the dismissal was to do with a number of ‘discoveries’, including claims Mr Ford had deleted a key password file.

But Mr Ford, from the Isle of Wight, has now won an employment tribunal claim for wrongful dismissal against his former firm – after a judge ruled the company did not prove their reasons for sacking him.

A former manager at a barbecue firm – whose products have been promoted by A-listers such as David Beckham and Liz Hurley (pictured) – has won a tribunal claim after making bullying claims against his American ex-boss

The brand, based in Hampshire, boasts a number of high-profile fans, including Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and a host of top celebrities, including former England star David Beckham (pictured with a Big Green Egg in the background) This Morning host Holly Willoughby (pictured cooking on a Big Green Egg)

The brand, based in Hampshire, boasts a number of high-profile fans, including Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and a host of top celebrities, including former England star David Beckham (pictured left with a Big Green Egg in the background) and  This Morning host Holly Willoughby (pictured right cooking on a Big Green Egg)

At the time, Mr Ford was employed as an E-commerce manager at Hampshire-based Alfresco Concepts (pictured)

At the time, Mr Ford was employed as an E-commerce manager at Hampshire-based Alfresco Concepts (pictured)

The tribunal in Southampton, Hants, heard that Mr Ford, was employed as an e-commerce manager at Alfresco Concepts Holdings, helping manage online sales and the company website. 

Employment judges were told that in 2018, when new GDPR rules came into effect across Europe, Mr Ford raised concerns on numerous occasions about the way the company was storing personal data.

However, it was said company director Mr Ezrine, 51, simply ‘did not care about GDPR’ and ‘wasn’t interested in anyone talking about GDPR’. The tribunal heard he would also regularly swear in the office.

In early 2018, Mr Ford said he thought there was a ‘change in Mr Ezrine’s attitude’ and when he was in a bad mood he would target him specifically.

He claimed he was regularly subjected to ‘intimidating and degrading treatment’ and on one occasion alleged he was told ‘Stop being a c**t, we’re all riding into battle and you come riding through on your pink pony to f*ck everything up’.

Giving evidence via video link from Australia, Mr Ezrine denied this, saying: ‘It is true I get frustrated and as a result I do swear but I never swear at people.

‘I simply use profanities in my every day language, and the more frustrated I get the more profanities I use.

‘I also speak bluntly, and I call people out if I think that they are not producing what is expected of them.  I do this with everyone and certainly did not target, or single Gavin out in this way.’

A woman who worked in the office, Valerie Lewis, said: ‘[Mr Ezrine] is extremely blunt and he swears regularly. He swore at everybody in the office, including his wife.’

The situation between the two men came to a head when Mr Ford delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the new data protection legislation.

In his witness statement, he said: ‘David seemed to get increasingly irritated as I went through it, eventually losing his temper and shouting at me ‘You f*cking British people would line up if you saw a sign telling you to jump off a cliff, I don’t need a risk assessment to take a sh*t’.’

Mr Ezrine, who has been granted British citizenship, said he did not remember making any of the comments.

But he said that if he did it would have been as a joke and no-one told him they were offended.

He said: ‘In terms of the alleged discriminatory comments about British people I am supposed to have made during Gavin’s employment, I do not believe I ever did that.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has used a Big Green Egg in the past, and, according to their website says 'there is nothing quite like it'

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has used a Big Green Egg in the past, and, according to their website says ‘there is nothing quite like it’

Paddy McGuiness (pictured here with a Big Green Egg) has previously been posted about on the company's Instagram account

Paddy McGuiness (pictured here with a Big Green Egg) has previously been posted about on the company’s Instagram account

‘I am sure I would have made comments about the British Government’s regulations and policies and how they impacted businesses in the UK, but it would never have been directed at individuals.

‘I remember joking about the obstacles that are put in place around planning permission and saying something like “who votes for this sort of f******g Government?”.’

Mr Ford told the tribunal that on one occasion he confronted Mr Ezrine on his views.

He said: ‘I remember saying that he was very negative and dismissive of anything British and British processes and attitudes, but I also did offer some sympathy that some processes were antiquated.

‘However, I then said that I thought Britain was a great place to be and that I was proud to be British.’

He added: ‘I found David’s comments about British people deeply offensive. I was so impacted by all that had happened that I spoke to my wife, Sarah, as soon as I got home.’

Following a company restructure a short while later, Mr Ford was told he was being made redundant.

However, after a number of discoveries allegedly made by Mr Ezrine, relating to the deletion of a critical password storage file, Mr Ford was told he would in fact be dismissed for gross misconduct.

Giving his conclusions and dismissing the harassment claim, Judge Jonathan Gray said: ‘We do not find the [British] comment was directed at [Mr Ford] in the way he says, nor that he raises it with Mrs Lewis at that time as being upsetting, humiliating or causing him offence because of the British national references.

‘Therefore, we do not find it is reasonable to have the effect as [Mr Ford] says, of upsetting and humiliating him or causing him offence related to British nationality.’

He also ruled that Mr Ford’s claims of making protected disclosures, unfair dismissal and victimisation all failed.

However, he did find the company was at fault to an extent as they did not prove that Mr Ford genuinely committed an act of gross misconduct and therefore the claim of wrongful dismissal succeeded.

MailOnline has contacted Mr Ford and Alfresco Concepts for comment. 

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