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Boss threw trash can at lesbian worker, then fired her

Boss threw trash can at lesbian worker, then fired her

Company boss Jim Cullen poured scorn on an openly lesbian employee and shouted and swore at her, a tribunal heard today (4 April).

The 6ft 3ins tall director of Cash Zone Ltd made homophobic comments about 19-year-old Rae Roberts, who worked for him in Camberley, Surrey, southern England, after she and her girlfriend attended a party together at his home.

The employment tribunal was told that Cullen even threw a waste-paper trash can at Roberts and called her an idiot before dismissing her without warning.

The teenager and her girlfriend, Jennifer Rowsell, (pictured together below) both worked for the check-cashing firm, Cash Zone, although they ended up in different branches of the company.

The tribunal panel was told today that Cullen was ‘violently aggressive’ to his gay employee and discriminated against her on the grounds of her sexual orientation.

She said that her boss made offensive comments about her sexuality and her age and that her immediate manager, Abigail Peters, would leave abusive and demeaning notes about her performance on a weekly basis.

Cullen and Cash Zone Ltd deny any wrongdoing and claim Roberts was dismissed because she failed to follow company procedures or take on board training.

Roberts and her 20-year-old partner, Jennifer, who also worked for the firm but left in protest at the treatment, gave evidence to an employment tribunal panel at the beginning of the court hearing.

In her statement, Roberts described receiving regular written and verbal abuse from Cullen and Peters, who constantly criticized the amount of work she did and its standard.

She said she was criticized for being late and going onto social networking websites, despite claiming Peters was sometimes several hours late and would also go onto Facebook a number of times each day.

The panel heard her responsibilities included dealing with money transfers, valuations, buy-back procedures, processing checks, testing gold, serving customers and even cleaning the branch office in Camberley, Surrey.

The tribunal in Reading, southern England, learned how Roberts went with Roswell to Cullen’s home for a staff party in September 2011.

She said: ‘The next working day he [Cullen] came to the Camberley branch and said to me how disrespectful I was and how embarrassed he was of me because of how I and Jennifer Rowsell were “all over each other”.

‘I found his remark embarrassing, unfavorable and directed at my sexual orientation.’

Dark-haired Rowsell went further when she gave evidence later on, denying such activity had even take place.

She said: ‘I never really display any affection publicly. I would not display affection, especially with work people around.’

Over the next few months, Roberts said, the offensive notes continued with comments such as: ‘You’re a stroppy little teenager who has an attitude’, ‘I will depress you and ruin your holiday’, as well as ‘clean the fucking fridge’ and ‘clean the fucking microwave’.

Then on 28 January 2012 Cullen (pictured below) held another party at his house, which Roberts and Rowsell reluctantly attended.

‘At one point when I, Abigail Peters and other girls were dancing, the second respondent (Cullen) said to me: “Don’t get excited about dancing with other women”,’ said Roberts.

The tribunal heard that on 30 March last year Abigail Peters spilled some gold-testing acid onto her trousers.

She pointed to the inside of her upper-thigh, showing it to Cullen. He then said: ‘Be careful. You may get Rae excited.’

Rowan Morton, counsel for the respondents, said: ‘Mr Cullen remembers, first of all, you were roaring with laughter and having a joke.’

Roberts said: ‘That’s incorrect.’

A few days earlier, on 23 March, Roberts said she was called into Cullen’s office, where she said he shouted and swore at her for about 30 minutes, telling her: ‘I bet you go home and cry to your mum, dad and Jennifer but they will not care or help you. You’re a stupid kid.’

She said he then grabbed his half-full trash can and shouted: ‘This is how you empty a fucking bin’ as he picked it up.

She began to leave the office and turned around just as the trash can flew past her and smashed into the door.

Rowsell, who had worked in the firm’s Bracknell branch, testified that she had seen Cullen shouting and swearing at her partner on up to 10 occasions.

Morton said Cullen had never shouted at or sworn at the claimant but had always treated her with respect and supported her.

She also said the gay couple had stayed the night at his home during the first party and that the flat they lived in was rented from him.

The hearing continues.