A supermarket worker with 28 years of experience was unfairly sacked from Sainsbury’s after she made a comment about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
A complaint was made against Marian Cunnington, 52, after she picked up a cuddly toy of BBC children’s character Bing, a black rabbit, and said: “Should we really be selling this toy? Black Lives Matter.”
She was suspended from her job later that day, an employment tribunal heard, before being sacked a month later.
The Daily Mirror reported that Cunnington, who had won awards for her work as a price controller at the Sainsbury’s store in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, was unfairly dismissed for gross misconduct after a colleague complained her remark was racist.
The incident happened in June last year at the height of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests following the murder of George Floyd in the US.
Cunnington was carrying out price changes in an aisle when she saw the Bing toy.
She told Birmingham Employment Tribunal she thought the toy could be offensive to Black people in the same way as the banned Robertson’s jam mascot.
The colleague who complained said she heard Cunnington say: “I’m offended Black Lives Matter”.
After being suspended, Cunnington later told her bosses in a meeting: “I was actually standing up for BLM.”
But she was sacked on 2 July last year and her appeal against the decision was also turned down, it was reported.
However, last month, Judge Richardson said the Sainsbury’s operations manager who sacked her “could not explain what was offensive about the words, ‘I’m offended Black Lives Matter’.”
The judge said “sensitivities were heightened” at the time of the incident because of the BLM protests in the US and the UK.
He said: “It is all the more reason to take great care that proper procedures are followed thoroughly, objectively and fairly so that justice can be done.
“Given the size and resources of [Sainsbury’s], the fact that so many fundamental procedural errors were made is unacceptable.
“In summary, the decision to dismiss was not well founded and is unfair.”
Cunnington has since found work with Marks & Spencer.
She told the Mirror: “I’m not a racist and I’m a really good worker. When I was summarily dismissed I was in disbelief.
“It was very hard but then I knew that I hadn’t said anything racist.
“Obviously I have made a lot of friends in my team and none of them believed I had done anything wrong.”
Yahoo News UK has contacted Sainsbury’s to ask for comment.
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