Employment Tribunal: Chef could not stand heat – so left the kitchen

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Artur Sumera also lost his claim for £3,785.33 for untaken time in lieu against his former employer, Atlantique Seafood, which trades as Soy Sushi Restaurant.

According to a recent judgment by the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal, Mr Sumera worked for Atlantique Seafood between May 2016 and July 2018 and was contracted to work 45 hours from Monday to Saturday.

As part of his contract, if he worked over his normal hours he would be given time back in lieu.

Giving evidence to the tribunal, Mr Sumera said he regularly worked four hours’ overtime every week and claimed that whenever he asked to use his time in lieu he was told the restaurant was too busy. However, he was unable to provide the dates on which he made his requests.

Mr Gomes, the director of the company, acknowledged that during high season – particularly in July and August – employees were not able to take time in lieu because the restaurant was too busy.

However, he told the tribunal that he believed Mr Sumera had taken all of his owed overtime because workflow fluctuated throughout the year.

The judgment gives details about Mr Sumera’s claim for unpaid wages, and reveals that on 3 July the ventilation system in the kitchen broke down. Although Mr Sumera worked the lunchtime shift on that day, five minutes before his evening shift he texted the company to complain about the working conditions and said that he would be taking a half-day in lieu of his bank holidays.

‘The claimant stated that he could not breathe, it was too hot and that the working conditions caused him to have a nosebleed,’ the judgment states.

Mr Gomes told the tribunal he provided two fans for the kitchen when the ventilation system broke, that all four kitchen windows were opened and rejected the assertion that the working conditions posed a danger to health.

Hilary Griffin, chairwoman of the tribunal, found that Mr Sumera rarely took his time owed and said that the company’s failure to implement a formal overtime and time-in-lieu policy should be addressed ‘urgently’. However, she rejected the unpaid overtime claim.

In her judgment, she said it was Mr Sumera’s responsibility to take his time off in lieu and rejected his claim the respondent had ‘unreasonably and routinely refused’ him the chance to take his time

Ms Griffin also rejected the claim for unpaid wages after concluding, on the ‘balance of probabilities’, that the ‘working conditions remained reasonable in the kitchen while the ventilation system was out of service’.

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