New Look Sheffield: Shop worker’s £12,000 unfair dismissal payout after ‘horrid’ orange Nike trainers row

A Sheffield fashion shop assistant whose boss slated her for wearing ‘horrid’ orange trainers has been given a £12,000 payout in an unfair dismissal case.

Thursday, 16th June 2022, 12:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2022, 12:15 pm

Samantha Jackson told a tribunal she felt bullied by her line manager at the Crystal Peaks branch of New Look, claiming she knew she had a knee condition and needed to wear comfortable footwear.

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Ms Jackson wore Nike trainers to her shop floor job, but after publicly criticising her for another issue, boss Kirsty Sherburn told her not to come in again wearing those ‘horrid orange things’.

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A Sheffield fashion shop assistant whose boss slated her for wearing ‘horrid’ orange trainers has been given a £12,000 payout in an unfair dismissal case. She worked in the store at the Crystal Peaks shopping centre in Waterthorpe, pictured.

She worked as a sales assistant at the store from September 2003 until April 2019, but went on sick leave with work-related stress after the incident, complaining officially when she returned.

She was invited to mediation after her grievance was dismissed, but the tribunal found there was ‘no real attempt to mediate’.

Three months later she resigned.

The tribunal, in Sheffield, ruled failures by New Look were a breach of trust and confidence, causing unfair dismissal.

Employment Judge Jonathan Brain found Mrs Sherburn had ‘unreasonably upbraided’ Ms Jackson about her shoes ‘in a fit of pique or temper’, and told her off in public, rather than taking her to one side to talk to her, after Ms Jackson spent a long time serving a customer towards the end of the day, which she said was due to a faulty till.

Ms Jackson said in evidence: 'There were in fact problems with the operation of the till although Kirsty took no time to discover this – she simply berated me about this.’

“At the same time as telling me off about the till, Kirsty also berated me about what she described as inappropriate footwear.

“New Look has no set or rigid policy with regard to footwear and as Kirsty and New Look were aware I have a condition with my knee – hyperflexion.

“This is a painful condition and I need shoes that are sufficiently comfortable to ensure that I can stand all day on the shop floor.”

She said she was made to feel incompetent and treated like a naughty child.

Mrs Sherburn told a grievance investigation she asked Ms Jackson if she needed some refresher training as serving the customer had taken a while.

“This wasn’t a heated conversation and I didn’t think it was significant,” she said, adding she had thought the trainers were dirty.

But the tribunal found there was no reason for Mrs Sherburn to criticise Ms Jackson’s footwear that day, and they were not dirty.

It found no history of Ms Jackson turning up for work in dirty footwear or inappropriate clothing and that Mrs Sherburn was displeased with the time taken to process the transaction, and disruption it caused to her busy day.

In her resignation letter, Ms Jackson complained about not being paid the full sick pay owed to her.

The tribunal found calculations made by New Look were wrong and this was one of the reasons – as well as the till and trainers incident and the handling of her grievance – for her resignation.

Judge Brain said: “There can be no reasonable and proper reason for a store manager to treat a junior employee in this manner.”

Ms Jackson was awarded £12,138.40 in compensation for unfair dismissal.