Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s have been forced to pay nearly £10,000 to a worker after he was sacked – because he left the store for two minutes to get change for a coffee.
Steven Tyler, 28, who had worked as a baker at the firm for 11 years, got the boot during a night shift after CCTV captured him walking out of the back of the store.
He was fired after his manager told him he did not have permission to leave his post which amounted to “gross misconduct” after the incident on August 24, 2011.
On Wednesday Steven, from Kidderminster, Worcs., won his claim of wrongful dismissal when he took the company to an employment tribunal.
Sainsbury’s paid him nearly £10,000 in loss of earnings and severance pay.
After winning his case, Steven said: “I will never set foot in Sainsbury’s again.
“I had worked there for 11 years and you expect some support after working there for so long.
“I just went out to get some money so I could get a coffee to keep me going through the night shift but they treated me like a criminal.
“It was disgusting the way I was treated and I’m relieved they have been made to pay up.”
Steven was working at the Sainsbury’s branch in Kidderminster when he was transferred to a store in Amblecote, Stourbridge, Worcs., while the shop underwent a refurbishment.
But half-way through his night shift he claims he asked his line manager if he could fetch his coat from his friend’s car which was parked in the store’s car park.
Steven said: “I’d got a lift with a friend but I’d left my coat with all my money in it in his car so just nipped out for less than two minutes to collect it.
“When I walked back into the store my manager asked me where I had been and claimed he’d never given me permission to leave my post.
“I was the subject of a disciplinary where CCTV was used showing me walking into the car park which I never disputed, but they claimed I was guilty of gross misconduct and I was sacked.
“What is most galling is that Sainsbury’s have a policy allowing smokers to take fag breaks but when I asked and got permission to get some change for a cuppa I got fired.”
Steven, who has a wife Gemma, 33, a step-daughter and two young sons, has now got a job at a vacuum packing factory in Kidderminster.
He said: “I’m now in this dead-end job at a vacuum-packing factory.
“When I applied for jobs after the sacking I was asked why I had left my old job and I had to tell them.
“After that no one would get back to me. I became really depressed and had to be medicated.
“I was worried about my family as I had no idea how I could support them.
“I got permission from my manager, but he later claimed he hadn’t done that.
“Some of my friend who worked in the bakery came to be witnesses at the tribunal, which at least showed there was some loyalty in the world.
“Now I can get my life back on track, it was never about the money, it was always about getting what was right.
“I have been asked by the company not to disclose the exact amount they paid me but it was close to £10,000.”
During the tribunal in Birmingham, Sainsbury’s said employees could only leave the premises during the night with official permission because of “security and health and safety regulations.”
Sainsbury’s admitted after the case they were wrong to sack Steven Tyler after he left the store to collect some change for a coffee.
A spokesperson told SWNS: “To ensure that everyone who works on the night shift is safe we ask our colleagues to seek permission before they leave the store.
“However, we accept that we applied the rules too vigorously on this occasion.”