Carmelli's chef who used non-kosher jam was 'sacked unfairly'

By Simon Rocker, October 18, 2012

A former pastry chef at Carmelli’s bakery in Golders Green has won a claim of unfair dismissal and discrimination because of disability.

Toufik Benali, who worked at Carmelli’s for seven years, was sacked in June 2011 after admitting using non-kosher jam in a product made at the Kedassia-supervised bakery.

But although Watford Employment Tribunal agreed that this was an act of gross misconduct which could lead to summary dismissal, it was not the “operative reason” for his departure.

In its judgment, the tribunal said Mr Benali had been “victimised” for complaining about the failure to adjust his workload to take account of back pain.

Mr Benali had a 10-month period off work because of sciatica, returning to Carmelli’s in February 2008. A year later, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in his spine.

In June 2008, he asked to be excused lifting heavy items, or be given help to do so, and to be allowed regular breaks to rest his back. The tribunal said that while Carmelli’s had “sporadically” made adjustments to his duties, “these were not maintained and pressure was put on the claimant by his immediate line managers to resume heavy lifting and breaks were discouraged”.

When Mr Benali complained to senior management, “nothing was done”.

The tribunal also found that Carmelli’s had not conducted a “reasonable and fair investigation” into the jam incident. Although Mr Benali admitted using the unapproved jam, he had denied asking another staff member to buy it.

As the bakery had not been prepared to show him any leniency over the incident, “the resulting dismissal was thus tainted by his complaints in relation to his disability and is therefore an act of victimisation”.

Bakery director David Carmelli declined to comment on the judgment.

Last updated: 1:16pm, October 18 2012