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Morrisons team leader loses unfair dismissal claim after pulling colleague’s hijab down

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Mrs Natalie McGonigle v WM Morrisons Supermarkets Plc a supermarket team leader pulled down her Muslim colleague’s hijab without her consent on ‘two separate occasions’ in acts which were deemed ‘disrespectful’ towards the colleague’s religion. The East London tribunal heard Mrs McGonigle had worked for Morrisons for four years and at the time of the incident when managers at the store received a complaint that Mrs McGonigle had twice pulled down her colleague’s hijab without her consent the previous month.

Six days after the complaint was made about Mrs McGonigle, she was suspended from work and a disciplinary investigation was launched. The tribunal heard other workers saw her yank the headscarf down on both occasions. Mrs McGonigle denied the second incident but admitted the first, arguing she was just ‘messing around’ and the colleague was ‘pretty without it on’. She went on to insist she was merely ‘having a laugh’ and meant ‘no malice or offence’.

But managers dismissed her excuses, stating they didn’t believe there were “any circumstances where pulling down a colleague’s headscarf could be done in jest'”. Mrs McGonigle was dismissed for gross misconduct later that month. She later started an appeal complaining that more consideration should have been given to her “poor mental health” during investigations, but this was not upheld.

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