Timpson manager said she could call colleague the N-word 'because I'm married to one'

·4 min read
Timpson in Cambridge city centre during the Coronavirus lockdown. (Doug Peters/EMPICS)
Timpson sacked one of their managers, Susanna Grant, after she used a racial slur at a Christmas party. (PA)

A sacked Timpson manager said she could call a worker by the N-word "because I am married to one", an employment tribunal has heard.

Susanna Grant was dismissed from her job at the retailer for gross misconduct after she made the comment at a work Christmas party.

The tribunal, held in Watford, heard that she also threatened to "kill that b***h".

It heard that she called the staff member the N-word before saying: "I can say that because I am married to one."

Grant, who is married to a Jamaican man, also threw a drink over another colleague, Mick Lawless, the tribunal heard.

She had to be stopped by Mr Lawless from going after the female member of staff she had made the racist comment towards. She apologised to him the next day.

After being sacked for gross misconduct, Grant argued she would never say the N-word and that the allegations had been made up in an attempt to get rid of her.

However, an employment judge at the tribunal found that the investigation had been fair and that Timpson was "more than entitled" to sack her.

She joined Timpson in March 2010 before becoming an area development manager based in Enfield, north London, where she was sent to other branches to carry out work.

Before going to the Christmas party, on 19 January 2019, with her husband, the panel heard she had been out for a meal and had a couple of drinks with dinner.

The tribunal was told that at 11pm, there was an incident between her and another manager, Mr Lawless, but the facts of this were "hotly disputed".

Grant admitted at the hearing she had been drunk, while Mr Lawless was not drinking as he had been feeling unwell that day.

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Employment tribunal documents, note pad and glasses.
Susanna Grant, a former manager at Timpson, lost her unfair dismissal case at an employment tribunal. (Getty Images)

The tribunal heard Grant was "in a rage" and was overheard saying, "I don’t think that African likes me", about an unnamed female employee.

The tribunal heard she then said words to the effect of: "I am going to have that [N-word] and I can say that because I am married to one."

The panel was told that Mr Lawless then blocked her from leaving, believing she was about to attack the woman, whereupon she had become abusive towards him and threw a drink at him.

The day after the party, Grant sent a text to Mr Lawless which read: "Mick I have just been filled in about last night I just wanted to apologise straight away I am quite embarrassed as I don’t remember so I wanted again to say sorry."

Another colleague, Stephanie Wilson, also said she heard Grant use the slur and threatening to "do in" the woman, the tribunal was told.

After the incident, a meeting was held in which Grant claimed she would never say those words, neither sober nor intoxicated.

In a subsequent disciplinary hearing she admitted taking Mr Lawless's phone, spilling or throwing a drink but denied aggressive behaviour and using the racial term.

She also said Mr Lawless had wanted her to leave and that the two people claiming to have heard her saying the N-word had an "agenda".

However, a disciplinary investigator found Mr Lawless would not bring such a serious complaint as a convenient way to get rid of her, the tribunal heard.

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Grant was sacked for gross misconduct which she unsuccessfully appealed before suing Timpson for unfair dismissal at a tribunal.

But the panel dismissed her claim.

Employment Judge Michael Rawlinson said: "The bulk of [Grant's] evidence and complaints are to the effect that the reason for the initial, formal complaint emerging in the first place (and, she says, thereafter being exaggerated and sustained) was some type of oblique or ulterior motive by her colleagues Mick Lawless and/or Stephanie Wilson to get rid of her.

"I find that on the balance of probabilities, [Timpson], more particularly those who dealt with [her] various investigations and subsequent disciplinary and appeal hearings, held a genuine belief that the claimant was guilty of gross misconduct.

"It is worthy of note that other than [Grant] herself and her husband, there was not a single third party witness who positively said the alleged comments were not said by her.

"I conclude that [Timpson] was more than entitled to treat the conduct as gross misconduct. Such a response was within the range of reasonable responses."

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