A Tesco manager who was sacked for bravely tackling a violent shoplifter has won a £42,000 payout in an unfair dismissal case.Abdoul El Gorrou rest
A Tesco manager who was sacked for bravely tackling a violent shoplifter has won a £42,000 payout in an unfair dismissal case.
Abdoul El Gorrou restrained the armed thief to protect customers and other staff before police could arrive in an ‘intensely scary’ confrontation in June 2019.
But rather than receiving praise for his actions in fighting off the ‘disgusting’ attack, the 60-year-old was reported for misconduct by a whistleblower who had a vendetta against him.
He was then fired after more than 20 years of service, with the supermarket giant arguing he should not have manhandled the shoplifter.
Mr El Gorrou has now won a case of unfair dismissal against Tesco after an employment tribunal ruled that he had acted reasonably to defend himself and others.
A hearing in East London was told the incident took place in a store which was regarded as ‘dangerous’ because of shoplifters who became violent.
But despite its ‘high risk’ reputation, no security guards were supplied to the unidentified shop, the tribunal was told. Tesco declined to comment.
Abdoul El Gorrou restrained the armed thief to protect customers and other staff before police could arrive in an ‘intensely scary’ confrontation in June 2019. Pictured, stock photo
After spotting a potential thief, the panel heard that – in line with company policy – Mr El Gorrou invited him into his office.
Employment Judge Stephen Knight: ‘He noticed a shoplifter. He used his customer service skills, honed over almost 20 years’ employment, to invite the shoplifter into the store office.
‘At this stage (he) did not feel threatened. It was a situation that (he) will have managed professionally countless times before.
‘This was in line with (his) training, to invite the shoplifter into the office to issue a banning letter and if appropriate call police.
‘When the shoplifter was in the office, the shoplifter turned aggressive. He spat at (him). He had in his hand a key, which (he) at the time thought was a screwdriver.
‘Outside the office were staff and customers who could get hurt. (He) was close to the shoplifter at the time. He had already approached him before the shoplifter became threatening.
‘(He) then made a split-second decision to restrain the shoplifter to protect himself and others.’
The tribunal heard that while the thief made no complaint, three months later an email and a short video extract of the incident were sent to the Tesco whistleblowing hotline.
‘The whistleblower attached an extract of the store CCTV which they created by recording on their phone a screen which was playing the store CCTV,’ the panel heard.
‘The whistleblower held some sort of vendetta against (Mr El Gorrou), and was using the CCTV footage to encourage (Tesco) to take disciplinary action against (him).’
But rather than receiving praise for his actions in fighting off the ‘disgusting’ attack, the 60-year-old was reported for misconduct by a whistleblower who had a vendetta against him. Mr El Gorrou has now won a case of unfair dismissal against Tesco after an employment tribunal ruled that he had acted reasonably to defend himself and others. Pictured, stock photo
The footage showed the two men in a brief struggle, with the manager grabbing the shoplifter by his hood and then restraining him for 10 seconds before officers arrive.
After receiving the complaint, Tesco launched disciplinary action against Mr El Gorrou and fired him for gross misconduct in January 2020 for having physical contact with a customer.
The employment tribunal judge criticised Tesco for not being more suspicious of the whistleblower’s claims and evidence.
‘The CCTV is completely decontextualised,’ he said. ‘It does not show what happened immediately before (he) took a step towards the shoplifter.
‘Any reasonable employer would also conclude that this was suspicious, and that the footage immediately before the start could be exculpatory, and could have been edited out by the whistleblower to make (the manager) look worse.
‘A reasonable employer would ask why the footage had been edited in this way. However, (Tesco) did not ask itself this question.’
The judge also dismissed the supermarket’s claim that Mr El Gorrouh had breached its policies on how to tackle shoplifters.
‘(His) actions, viewed objectively, were reasonable in all the circumstances as he believed them to be at the time, in defence of himself and others,’ he said.
‘There were no reasonable grounds on which (Tesco) could have concluded that (he) acted otherwise than in response to disgusting and violent actions by the armed and threatening shoplifter.
‘There were no reasonable grounds to conclude that in the CCTV footage (he) acted otherwise than in reasonable self defence and defence of others… having made a split-second decision about what defence was required, in an intensely scary and fast-paced situation, and without a security guard having been provided for his or his colleagues’ protection.’
Mr El Gorrouh was awarded a total of £42,141.56 in compensation.