Sex and drugs and employment law


Date: 29 June 2010

Restaurant's kitchen

What’s a hard day at work for you? As employees now launch tribunal cases because they ‘weren’t offered a seat at the right table in the canteen’, the Law Donut takes a look at the – real – world of employment.

A shooting, a strangling, a drugs ring, a fight, a hold-up and “nipple issues” with a Mafioso - even in the leafy enclaves of LawDonut HQ, our oh-so-refined editors, lawyers, and mentors produced a range of ‘workplace incidents’ to stun a tribunal in ten seconds.

So if you’re bored by a whingeing worker, or facing a conduct dispute that’s a little tiresome, our new series should cheer you up. Find a new post here every couple of days, as well as expert pronouncements from our renowned bloggers and writers that show you what the victim – or the law - did next. The first post in our series is right below.

Mentor-health problems

The Prince’s Trust mentor writes….

One of my oldest friends, who is staying with me, has done annoyingly well as a tycoon. Needless to say, he’s rather competitive. So this morning, breakfast table conversation turned briefly to employment law as he and I shared (ie scrabbled for supremacy about) our managerial war stories.

I work with young people’s businesses now, but I kicked off with a few tales from my salad days as a restaurant manager. One of the high points was a phone call from the Metropolitan Police, wanting to discuss a former chef of ours, who had, they explained, been convicted of drug smuggling while on the job. The police needed to check how much I’d paid him so they could calculate how much illegal income they could seize.

At the time it was a fairly uncomfortable situation, but in hindsight it wasn’t a big deal. After all, the chef was by then an ex-employee, and in the restaurant trade this sort of thing isn’t that far out of the ordinary. Anyway, he was a good cook: well, his sauces were very more-ish.

My friend rose to the bait. He ran a far larger business, but he too had been on the receiving end of personal calls from the police. One of his employees was a junkie, in whom the boys in blue had a keen interest. Somewhat to my mate’s indignation, the employee had used his company car in a heist (then sold it for cash). Well, it showed initiative, I pointed out infuriatingly.

But my mate won. The prize for “HR Minefield of the Decade” went to one of his lady executives, who had decided to become a man. Advised to make lifestyle changes before the op, she asked to use the men’s toilets. By that stage, her female colleagues weren’t happy with her continuing to use the Ladies’. But the male staff were less than thrilled at the prospect of her hauling up her tights in the urinals.

It’s the sort of situation that could turn seriously tricky. The sex-changing employee might claim discrimination, while, whether she chose the male or female toilets, there was a good chance that other employees’ discomfort might turn into formal grievances. In the event, common sense prevailed. She would use the male facilities, but only after checking they were empty.

This much I know: the business owner writes:

What all our stories had in common was the sheer unpredictability of managing employees. Neither of us expected our employees to get involved with drugs or have a sex–change, I guess, the lesson is that you do need to be ready to cope with the consequences, whatever happens. And avoid ‘Dish of the Day’ in small restaurants.

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