Sainsbury’s manager wins tribunal over International Men’s Day post

Cooper, who had worked at Sainsbury’s for more than 30 years, was off work for anxiety when his manager published the post

Daren Cooper, a manager at Sainsbury’s supermarket, has won a disability harassment claim after he was not included in an ‘International Men’s Day’ post sent to colleagues and published on LinkedIn.

Antonio Fletcher, head of employment at Whitehead Monckton, told HR magazine: “This case highlights the need for employers to remain mindful of all employees when issuing communications that may be relevant to them and not omitting (erroneously or otherwise) staff because they are not visible or present.”

Cooper, who had worked at Sainsbury’s for more than 30 years, was off work for anxiety when his regional director posted on Yammer, on the supermarket's internal message board, and on his own LinkedIn page.

The post referenced the retailer Sainsbury’s activities around men’s mental health. It included photos of each of the male store managers in the region, apart from Cooper.

The post stated: "I'd like to take a moment to celebrate the male leaders in my team and say thank you for all that you do [...]. All of you do this whilst leading busy lives outside of work too, dealing with health, family and personal issues in the same way that everyone else does, yet you all show up for work each day, put on a name badge and provide support, guidance and leadership to the thousands of colleagues that work on our region. [...]”

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The tribunal heard that the post caused Cooper ‘untold further damage’ to his health, and that he had received questions from friends, colleagues and LinkedIn connections asking him if he had left Sainsbury’s. 

Cooper said that he felt excluded, humiliated and violated by the post.

The regional director said that Cooper had previously asked to be not contacted and to be left alone to recover. He felt that if he had tagged Cooper on LinkedIn then this would have led to him receiving hundreds of alerts, which he thought would be the last thing that Cooper would have wanted. 

The director also did not have a photograph of Cooper, and did not consider it appropriate to ask him for one.

Cooper’s compensation will be decided at a later date.

The need for proactive communication and engagement is a key takeaway from this case, according to Victoria Jackson, legal director of employment for the law firm Clarion.

She told HR magazine: “Liability could have been avoided if the manager had simply spoken to the claimant about the posts before publishing them. The tribunal was particularly critical of the fact that there had been a missed opportunity to engage with the claimant the day before publication.

“Employers should therefore always be sensible about the nature and content of communications, ensuring that they are balanced and sensitive to any groups who share protected characteristics.”

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Fletcher added that employers should train staff on making communications inclusive.

He said: “Employers could protect themselves from claims like these by providing better training to their staff, especially to those in managerial positions. They should highlight to their employees the importance of inclusivity and the consequences of failing to uphold those standards.”