Manager who told receptionist ‘I didn’t realise you had t**s until today’ sacked

A warehouse manager was sacked after telling a colleague: "I didn't realise you had t**s until today."

Jonathan Hicks claimed he was trying to "reassure" receptionist Emily Cox, 21 at the time, after she was called a prostitute by a colleague, an employment tribunal has heard.

Ms Cox fled to the toilets and cried because she was so upset by the offensive comment, the hearing was told.

Mr Hicks was sacked two days later but then claimed he had been unfairly dismissed by bosses.

He worked for Sporting Wholesale Limited, which imports fishing tackle, as a warehouse assistant manager in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, MirrorOnline reports.

On March 18, 2019, he went to speak to Ms Cox, a receptionist at the self-storage unit where the firm rented space.

He said she was upset after two other workers were calling her a "kurwa" – which means "b***h" or "prostitute" in Polish.

Mr Hicks, who said he had a "young daughter", told the hearing he wanted to comfort Ms Cox as the pair "got on well".

He said: "Due to the nature of our working relationship, I felt able to do so, and therefore told her it was likely the boys were behaving childishly and that young boys can be silly when they like a girl.

"I went further to say that as it was nearly spring, they had probably got carried away on seeing her without a big bulky jacket on and stupidly I said 'maybe that's why they're behaving like kids, even I had never noticed you had boobs before'."

However, the panel said it "preferred Ms Cox's evidence" who said the pair had an "extremely limited" relationship and would just say "hello" and "bye" to each other – and "nothing more".

She told the hearing: "As he was filling up his water bottle, he loudly said 'I didn't realise you had t**s until today'.

"I was so shocked by this abrupt comment that I looked around and saw there were many other men present, who all began to laugh. I was left speechless and was extremely embarrassed and upset."

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After a 45 minute conversation with Ms Cox, Eddy Eliaz, the managing director Sporting Wholesale, sacked Mr Hicks over the phone with immediate effect as he felt his comment amounted to gross misconduct.

Mr Hicks then claimed the actual reason for his dismissal was that he had previously raised concerns over other workers smoking cannabis on the site but the panel concluded: "It had nothing to do with it."

The panel – headed by Employment Judge Oliver Hyams – said: "We concluded that [Mr Hicks'] memory was simply not reliable and that he had realised that he had done something he should not have done.

"We concluded that by saying to Ms Cox, for no good reason, 'I didn't realise you had t**s till today,' the claimant committed a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, which was necessarily such as to justify his dismissal without notice."

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Although it ruled Mr Hicks behaviour amounted to gross misconduct, the tribunal found it was unfair for Mr Eliaz to sack him with immediate effect over the telephone and not give him a week to consider the allegation.

The panel continued: "In our view, no reasonable employer would have dismissed Mr Hicks without giving him time to become used to the reality that he was likely to be dismissed and time to prepare his case in response to that proposition."

Mr Hicks will be awarded £359.43 – one week's net pay – as compensation.

In a message to other women who find themselves in a similar situation, Miss Cox, now 24, said: "Don't be afraid to speak out."

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