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Brewdog fires Asian employee who swore after finding EDL in bar

“All I said was: ‘I can’t fucking believe this. This is fucking unbelievable,'" the former employee told Tribune magazine

Representatives of the hospitality business Brewdog fired an Asian employee who expressed concern when she found members of the English Defence League (EDL) meeting in the bar she worked in, the Guardian reported (27 June).

The former employee approached her manager to express discomfort when she found members of the far-right organisation in the bar before one of their rallies in London, where police arrested 10 people.

She later spoke with her manager to apologise for the strength of her emotions and explained that her family had previously experienced racial abuse from the EDL.

Brewdog representatives subsequently accused her of serious misconduct, “aggressive behaviour and use of inappropriate language”. She was then dismissed.

Natasha Kearslake, director of HR consultancy Organic P&O Solutions, told HR magazine that employers should create a culture where employees can safely express their concerns.

She said: “Employers need to take employees’ concerns seriously, especially when they involve situations that have the potential to cause offence or distress.

“Brewdog's failure to inform staff about the potential EDL presence, despite prior police warning, was a significant oversight.

“Creating a safe space for staff to voice their worries without fear of reprisal is essential, particularly for employees from minority backgrounds who may have personal experiences of discrimination.”

Read more: 72% experience discrimination at work, report finds

The employee maintained that she did not swear at her manager. “All I said was ‘I can’t fucking believe this. This is fucking unbelievable.’  I didn’t swear at my manager,” she told Tribune magazine.

She also claimed that her colleagues were also uncomfortable about EDL’s presence at the bar, and accused Brewdog of being ignorant about the concerns of people of colour.

Kearslake noted that this situation highlighted the need for strong communication and cultural awareness between employers and employees.

She continued: “This case highlights the importance of open and clear communication between management and employees. The apparent lack of awareness about the EDL from a staff member handling the disciplinary hearing is concerning, and suggests a need for better cultural awareness training.

“Brewdog interpreting the employee's distress as 'aggressive behaviour' and 'serious misconduct' seems unfair given the circumstances. Employers should have clear, culturally sensitive policies for addressing complaints and grievances, and ensure that those handling disciplinary procedures are adequately trained on issues like racial discrimination.”

Employers can respond to employees’ concerns by addressing their policies, added Amrit Sandhar, founder of consultancy &Evolve.

He told HR magazine: “Brewdog could have turned this situation into a positive by addressing the employee's concerns, reviewing policies around bookings and staff support, and using it as an opportunity to reaffirm their values.

“Instead, their actions may significantly damage staff morale, public perception and their reputation as an inclusive employer. More employees want to know that the organisations they work for will take a stance on social matters that are important to them, which puts organisations in a difficult position.”

Read more: Effective communication can change everything

Brewdog previously came under fire in 2021 when a group of 61 ex-employees highlighted that they felt belittled and overworked and the culture was sexist, leaving staff to suffer with mental illness.

In an interview with HR magazine in April 2023, the chief people officer of Brewdog explained that the business had introduced mental health and neurodiversity policies to encourage staff to feel comfortable talking about their wellbeing.

However, in March 2024 an open letter was published by staff at Brewdog Waterloo who claimed that they were “mistreated because of the way Brewdog values profits over people”.

The employee who was fired for raising concerns about the EDL told Tribune she felt “scared, upset, heartbroken” and had a breakdown following accusations by the brand.

A Brewdog spokesperson maintained that the former employee's actions constituted misconduct.

They said: “The standards of behaviour we expect from our colleagues are set out in our workplace code of conduct. There was a clear and unacceptable breach of this code in this instance.

“We followed all relevant processes and complied with our investigation and disciplinary policies, and we stand by our decision.”