A judge’s decision has been criticised after he ruled in favour of a claimant claiming unfair dismissal against Lidl after the supermarket reportedly fired him for brandishing his swastika tattoo to a colleague.
Istvan Horvarth, the former caretaker at Lidl’s Telford Hadley branch in Shropshire, was said to have proudly displayed his tattoo whilst laughing. The Hungarian native also reportedly joked that it was “his country’s symbol.”
The colleague who reported Mr Horvarth, referred to only as MB, was only on their second shift when Mr Horvarth approached him. They alleged that the swastika tattoo was surrounded by barbed wire, and that Mr Horvarth also had other far-right tattoos.
MB said: “[Mr 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.”
This led to a disciplinary hearing conducted by Andrew Shaw, the branch’s Area Manager, which then resulted in Mr Horvarth’s dismissal. Mr Shaw stated: “These are sensitive issues and I felt it was massively inappropriate for [Mr Horvarth to be] behaving this way. I felt that him showing the tattoos at work was damaging to Lidl’s reputation.”
When questioned, Mr Horvarth apparently claimed that the symbol was a “Buddhist peace symbol”, despite Lidl’s internal investigation confirming that it was indeed the Nazi symbol.
Judge Ian Miller, presiding in the case, concluded that the symbol was offensive, however he felt that a warning about uniform policy would have been more appropriate, and upheld Mr Horvarth’s accusation of unfair dismissal.
Despite stating that there was “beyond any sensible doubt that a Nazi swastika is offensive to most people for obvious reasons,” Judge Miller ruled in favour of Mr Horvarth, partly because he believed that Mr Shaw and branch boss Craig Taylor had already branded Mr Horvarth as a “troublemaker” and a “bully”. Judge Miller also felt that Mr Horvarth was not afforded an adequate opportunity to defend himself during his disciplinary hearing.
Mr Horvarth’s additional claim of race discrimination was denied.
Mr Horvarth is now awaiting compensation from the supermarket chain.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has been monitoring and acting against the threat from the far-right for years and continues to support the authorities following suit.
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