Lidl employee sacked after showing off ‘Nazi swastika’ tattoo at work wins unfair dismissal claim

A supermarket employee who showed off his ‘swastika’ tattoo at work has won his unfair dismissal case after a judge ruled he should have been give a ‘stern warning’ instead.   

Lidl caretaker Istvan Horvarth won an unfair dismissal claim after the budget chain sacked him from his job at the Telford Hadley store in Shropshire after he showed the tattoo to a colleague.

Horvarth, originally from Hungry, argued it was actually a ‘Buddhist peace symbol’. 

But this was challenged by Lidl chiefs, whose researched revealed that the angle of the tattoo resembeled the Nazi symbol rather than the similar-looking Buddhist sign.

Despite this, Horvarth appealed his sacking. And now a judge ruled in Horvarth’s favour.

He is now in line for compensation after a judge concluded that while the swastika was offensive, bosses at Lidl – who said his behaviour was ‘massively inappropriate’ – should not have sacked him.

Judge Ian Miller instead said he should have received a warning about the company’s uniform policy,

Lidl employee Istvan Horvarth won an unfair dismissal claim after the budget chain sacked him after he showed the tattoo to a colleague

An employment tribunal in Birmingham heard that Mr Horvarth started worked at the Telford Hadley store as a caretaker in 2013.

In April 2019 a colleague – identified only as MB – complained that he had approached him on his second shift at the store to ask about his tattoos.

He claimed Mr Horvarth then showed him his swastika tattoo whilst laughing and saying it was his country’s national symbol.

The colleague said: ‘(Horvarth) exposed the top of his arm and shoulder and pointed to a tattoo of the swastika symbol.

‘I thought it was disgusting for someone to brazenly show it as a proud symbol.

‘I come from a military background so I was not impressed for that to be displayed so publicly in a company that promotes equality and the acceptance of people from different backgrounds.’

MB added that he saw other far right symbols tattooed on Mr Horvarth and that the swastika was surrounded by barbed wire.

This colleague reported the incident to boss Craig Taylor who suspended Mr Horvarth after also receiving a complaint that he had kicked another colleague.

The supermarket worker who was allegedly kicked complained to Mr Taylor upon hearing about the swastika tattoo incident, saying that because she is gay the fact that he showed off the hate symbol made her ‘uncomfortable.’

The supermarket’s investigation determined that the symbol on Mr Horvarth’s arm was in fact a Nazi swastika rather than, as he claimed, a Buddhist symbol, because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45 degree angle.

He was fired after the investigation by Mr Taylor led to a disciplinary hearing conducted by Lidl Area Manager Andrew Shaw.

Lidl employee sacked after showing off 'Nazi swastika' tattoo at work wins unfair dismissal claim

The supermarket’s investigation found that the symbol on Mr Horvarth’s arm was in fact a Nazi swastika (like the one pictured here) because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45 degree angle.

Mr Shaw said in his evidence as to why he fired Mr Horvarth: ‘These are sensitive issues and I felt it was massively inappropriate for (Horvarth to be) behaving this way.

‘I felt that him showing the tattoos at work was damaging to Lidl’s reputation.’

Mr Taylor said that Mr Horvarth would often make references to his Hungarian culture and how powerful the country used to be.

‘(Horvarth) would always make reference his culture and how powerful they used to be and how much land they used to have,’ he said.

‘He used to make reference to his race a lot and would say things like Hungary used to rule the world.’

Employment Judge Ian Miller agreed that the symbol was offensive and that Lidl’s research into the tattoo did show that it resembled a swastika.

Judge Miller said: ‘Clearly it is beyond any sensible doubt that a Nazi swastika is offensive to most people for obvious reasons.’

But he ruled that a ‘stern warning about uniform policy’ would have been more reasonable than firing Mr Horvarth.

In relation to the kicking incident, Judge Miller said that, again, a warning to be more careful and sensitive around new employees would have been the most appropriate response to his behaviour.

Upholding his claim for unfair dismissal, the judge found that Mr Horvarth was not given the opportunity to respond to all the allegations against him during the investigation and disciplinary hearing processes.

Judge Miller also found he was fired because Mr Taylor and Mr Shaw had biased perceptions of him as a ‘troublemaker’ and ‘bully.’

However, his claims for race discrimination were dismissed. A hearing to determine compensation will take place at a later date.

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