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August 10, 2004

I Was Bullied At Shop Says Deaf Worker

From: Exeter Express, UK - Aug 10, 2004

A deaf former employee of an Exeter retailer has claimed he was bullied at work and forced to resign.

Kieran Denman, 19, worked as a shop assistant at the Makro store at Matford Business Park from September 2003 until he resigned in February 2004.

Mr Denman, from Queen Elizabeth Drive in Crediton, told an Exeter employment tribunal yesterday he felt bullied when he was reprimanded for leaving his checkout to ask questions.

He said he was forced to leave his post because he relied on lipreading and had difficulty using the telephone provided.

He claimed that he was not given adequate tea or coffee breaks when other staff were.

And he said he felt he was forced to resign after being given a piece of paper and a pen following a disciplinary hearing.

He said: "I was put to work in the kiosk at the front of the store where they sell cigarettes. I requested to do this as I had a hernia and needed to sit down. The only way that I could get in touch with supervisors is to pick up a telephone."

He explained that he was unable to hear what the supervisors said when they spoke on the phone so used to pretend to be hearing what they were saying.

"Some of the time I used to request via the telephone that a supervisor would give me change," he told the tribunal.

"One particular supervisor, Janice Wisdom, would get aggressive with me and raised her voice and rolled her eyes when I asked for things.

"She did this in front of customers so that I got embarrassed."

Chris Hall, representing Mr Denman, said that there appeared to be a lack of understanding on the part of the management towards Mr Denman's disability.

He added that it could also be the case that Makro had wrongly applied its disciplinary procedures.

This related to a search that was carried out on Mr Denman's car in December of last year when a small quantity of cannabis was found.

Lisa Norman, representing Makro, argued that in the employees' handbook it stated that the company was entitled to search lockers, personal bags and private cars in the interests of security.

Mr Denman replied: "I do not think they are entitled to search private vehicles because they should trust their employees."

The tribunal heard that following a second disciplinary hearing in February following a complaint from a customer, Mr Denman felt he had to resign.

He said: "I told human resources that I wanted to leave.

"They told me to go off and calm down. When I returned, they handed me paper and a pen and told me what to write in my resignation letter."

Catherine Murphy, a current employee of Makro and Mr Denman's girlfriend, told the tribunal that she had noticed a change in his attitude towards the job.

She said: " I did not start going out with him until January but I knew he was not happy.

"He enjoyed working there until the bullying started."

The hearing was expected to conclude today.

© 2004 Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd.