Boots worker who told customer ‘I don’t speak Taliban’ loses dismissal claim

Boots worker who told a customer who did not speak good English ‘I don’t speak Taliban’ loses constructive dismissal claim

  • Boots employee Dorothy Roach went to help struggling colleague at the tills
  • But tribunal heard she made ‘racist comments’ about customer who did not have English as their first language
  • Claimed she told another customer ‘I don’t speak Taliban’ and ‘I’m sick of them’
  • But Ms¬†Roach then quit after a complaint sparked a¬†disciplinary process
  • Her claim of constructive dismissal has now been rejected by a tribunal

A Boots worker appalled onlookers by telling a customer who did not speak good English ‘I don’t speak Taliban’, an employment tribunal heard.

Dorothy Roach, who had worked as a healthcare assistant at the high street chemists for 14 years, went over to the till to help a colleague when she saw the store manager struggling with a customer.

The tribunal was told she was then heard making ‘racist comments’, including ‘they’re annoying, I’m sick of them’.

Mrs Roach quit after a complaint from a customer prompted an investigation. She denied making the comments and said she would not be made ‘a scapegoat’.

She then brought a claim for constructive dismissal. But the tribunal has now ruled against her.

A tribunal heard that Dorothy Roach appalled onlookers as she ‘I don’t speak Taliban’ at a customer who could not speak good English while working at her Boots store in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside

The hearing was told Mrs Roach began working at Boots in 2006 at the Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, branch.

On October 13 2020, Joanne Kelly, the store manager, was dealing with a woman who did not have English as her first language and was having difficulty asking for her name and address, the tribunal in Liverpool heard.

At the time, Mrs Roach was working at the healthcare counter but went over to the other till to speak to another colleague about an issue.

According to a customer complaint made later that afternoon heard by the tribunal, Mrs Roach, referred to as ‘Dot’, then made ‘racist comments’.

The customer said: ‘There was a woman ahead of me in the queue, who didn’t speak very good English.

‘One of the pharmacists was trying to ask her name and address and they weren’t having much luck, and another member of staff said to a customer “I don’t speak Taliban” and then she also carried on to say “they’re annoying, I’m sick of them”.

‘Then she looked at me as l was waiting, she went “won’t be long love, we’re just having technical issues” and then nodded her head towards the woman who couldn’t speak English.’

An investigation into the complaint was launched by Danny Hird, the Wigan Grand Arcade branch store manager, and the branch pharmacist told him she had also heard Mrs Roach say those words.

During her investigatory interview, Mrs Roach ‘strenuously denied the allegation’ and said she would not be the ‘scapegoat’ for someone else and was not being disciplined.

The hearing was told she later resigned with immediate effect due to health reasons and said she could not go through with the disciplinary process.

Mrs Roach brought a claim of constructive dismissal but this was rejected by the tribunal.

Employment Judge Liz Ord concluded: ‘Mrs Roach resigned because Mr Hird told her she would need to undergo a disciplinary process in regard to racial allegations he understood had been made against her by a customer.

‘She was not prepared to be subjected to a disciplinary procedure and protested her innocence, saying she was being made a scapegoat for someone else’s actions.

‘Boots’ investigation provided a reasonable basis upon which to make that decision, and Boots proceeded in this way with reasonable and proper cause.

‘It did not breach the implied term of mutual trust and confidence and there was no repudiatory breach entitling the claimant to resign.’

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