Doffou v Sainsbury’s Supermarket Limited – Sainsbury’s worker dismissed for not paying for plastic bags

30th April 2024

By Lauren Ogden, Solicitor.


Mr Doffou had been employed by Sainsbury’s for almost 20 years most recently as a Night Shift Assistant. In August 2022, after he had finished work during a busy Bank Holiday Weekend he did some personal shopping, which amounted to around £30. However, when using the self-checkout, he failed to pay for the multiple reusable bags for life that he put his shopping in. The CCTV from the shop showed that Mr Doffou made several trips to get the bags after selecting the zero bags option and paying for his shopping. CCTV also showed that Mr Doffou checked his receipt.

When challenged, Mr Doffou denied that he had intended to steal the bags and argued that he was tired, stressed and was unaware of what he was doing when he took the bags without paying for them. Mr Doffou, who was originally from France, also argued that a language barrier had contributed to his error.

Despite this, Sainsbury’s found that Mr Doffou had been dishonest in deliberately not paying for the bags. Notwithstanding the low value of the items, it was the company’s position that they could no longer have trust in Mr Doffou, given that he had stolen items from them, and therefore they decided to dismiss him. The value of the items was irrelevant to the dismissing officer; it was the fact that Mr Doffou deliberately stole that was the issue. Mr Doffou subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

In dismissing the claim the Employment Tribunal held that Sainsbury’s had carried out a reasonable and proportionate investigation and a fair disciplinary hearing and appeal. The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Doffou, who was represented by his trade union representative throughout , was given a full opportunity to participate in the internal proceedings and that his responses were not credible.

Key takeaway points

This case demonstrates that where an employer carries out a full and proper investigation into alleged misconduct and the dismissing officer has reasonable belief that the employee is guilty, an Employment Tribunal will likely consider the dismissal fair. It is important to remember that when considering claims for unfair dismissal, a Tribunal cannot substitute its view for that of the dismissing officer. All they will consider is whether the decision reached by the dismissing officer was within a range of reasonable responses and if the process followed was fair.

Here Sainsbury’s had a zero-tolerance approach to theft, regardless of the value of the items in question. Given this, the fact that the dismissing officer reasonably believed that Mr Doffou had intentionally taken the bags, the decision to dismiss was a reasonable one.

The case also highlights the importance for employers of following a proper and thorough investigative and disciplinary process when considering disciplinary allegations. Any failure to do so may result in a Tribunal making adverse findings.

We can offer bespoke training for managers on handling investigations, disciplinaries and appeals. To find out more or for more general advice please get in touch with the team or call us on 0161 832 3434.

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