Tuesday 16 July 2019

Contract cleaner accused of paying 85c less for pastries settles defamation case against Tesco

Syed Asif Hussein from Shannon, Co. Clare pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Syed Asif Hussein from Shannon, Co. Clare pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A contract cleaner is to receive undisclosed damages in settlement of his High Court action for being falsely accused of stealing over an 85 cent price shortfall for two pastries he bought in a supermarket.

Tesco Ireland also acknowledged Syed Asif Hussein did not engage in any dishonest conduct in the course of he employment with Mid West Cleaning while working at Tesco, Coonagh Cross, Limerick.

Mr Hussein,  Inis Mhara, Shannon, Co Clare,  sued Tesco for defamation arising out of an incident on February 14, 2016, when he had finished his work for Mid West Cleaning in the store.  Tesco denied he was defamed.

It was claimed he requested two Danish pastries at the bakery which a Tesco staff member put in a transparent plastic bag and applied the price tag to it.

Mr Hussein paid for them at the self-service checkout when, it was alleged, a trainee manager asked him to attend the service desk for a staff search.

He retrieved the receipt which he had thrown in the bin. The trainee manager contacted the store manager, Joe Rooney, because the two pastries had been tagged as butter croissants which meant he had paid 85 cent less than he should have. Mr Hussein said he was unaware they had been incorrectly tagged.

It was claimed the manger, Mr Rooney, told him  "the guy in the bakery is your friend and he gave you a favour and gave you a discount". Mr Hussein offered to pay the balance but this was not accepted. He asked Mr Rooney was he accusing him of stealing.

It was claimed Mr Rooney replied: "Yes you were, cause you were stealing 85 cent from the company and this is a serious issue and I am going to talk to your manager about this".

Mr Hussein said this was audible members of the public doing their shopping.

He was later suspended with pay from his job with Mid West Cleaning.

Two days later, it is claimed, while his wife was travelling on a bus, a Tesco employee sat beside her and said: "I heard your husband got caught stealing in Tesco".

Mr Hussein's solicitors wrote to Tesco seeking an apology and amends. The following month, another Tesco employee went into Mr Hussein's wife's shop and, in the presence of other customers, said she understood her husband had been dismissed for stealing.

His wife was also told by an employee of Mid West Cleaning that Mr Hussein and another employee had been justifiably dismissed because they "had been taking headphones and other items" from the store and had been caught on camera.

Tesco was requested to provide undertakings that it would inform its staff and Mr Hussein's employer the allegations had no basis. 

It refused or neglected to comply with the request, it was claimed, and he sued for defamation.

Following talks on Thursday, a High Court jury sworn in to hear the case was told it had been settled before it opened.

Michael Delaney SC, instructed by Alec Gabbett of Leahy Reidy Solicitors, for Mr Hussein, said the defendant had agreed to pay a sum of damages plus costs. The defendant would also read a statement as part of the settlement.

Declan Doyle SC, for Tesco, said his client wished to acknowledge Mr Hussein "is of the highest integrity and was not at any time engaged in dishonest conduct in the course of his employment at the defendant's store".

Mr Justice Michael McGrath congratulated the parties, thanked the jury, discharged it, and struck out the proceedings.

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