Woman Fired For Eating Leftover Sandwich Found In UK Company's Meeting Room

Ms Rodriguez said that it was "common practice" for staff members to take leftovers for lunch.

Woman Fired For Eating Leftover Sandwich Found In UK Company's Meeting Room

Gabriela Rodriguez worked at Devonshires Solicitors for two years.

A cleaner in the United Kingdom was fired by a top London law firm for eating a leftover tuna sandwich which she found in a meeting room, according to a report in the Guardian. The woman Gabriela Rodriguez, hailing from Ecuador, worked at Devonshires Solicitors for two years and is now taking legal action against them.

The United Voices of the World union, which represents the rights of migrant workers, stated that the woman was sacked a few days before Christmas last year after the contractor Total Clean received a complaint of leftover sandwiches not being returned. They confirmed that Ms Rodriguez ate a sandwich worth 1.50 euros (Rs 134 approximately) which she thought would be thrown after a meeting of lawyers. According to the legal affairs website RollOnFriday, the woman was fired for taking "client property ... without authority or reasonable excuse". The union claims that the request for Ms Rodriguez's removal was an act of discrimination, claiming that if she were not a Latin American with limited English, the company would not have complained about her, resulting in her firing.

To protest against her firing and to get her reinstated, several union workers gathered outside the law firm's office on February 14 with "100 cans of tuna, 300 hand-wrapped sandwiches, several helium heart-shaped balloons, and love letters for Rodriguez".

In an interview with the outlet, Ms Rodriguez said that it was "common practice" for staff members to take leftovers for lunch. "On a normal day, some sandwiches were left in the canteen after meetings of lawyers; it was a common practice for people to help themselves for lunchtime. It was almost at the end of my shift - quarter to two in the afternoon - and I took one and put it in the fridge. A week later, I was called 15 minutes before the end of my shift. I was then suspended without pay pending further investigation," she told the Guardian.

Petros Elia, the general secretary of United Voices of the World, told the outlet, "Cleaners are routinely dismissed on trivial and, we argue, discriminatory grounds like this every day around the country. Many describe feeling treated 'like the dirt they clean' and Gabriela is one of them. We will raise our voices and unite to fight any employer - even big powerful companies like Devonshires Solicitors. And just because we clean their dirt, does not mean they can treat us like dirt. We demand respect, dignity and equality, regardless of the language we speak, our country of origin, or the colour of our skin." She added that they will take both companies to the employment tribunal for race discrimination.

A Total Clean spokesperson told the outlet that the information provided by the ex-employee was "misleading and inaccurate". They said, "It is important to us to maintain the integrity of our workforce and service by ensuring we deal appropriately with any actions that undermine the hard work and reputation of our incredible team who conduct themselves impeccably. Trust and honesty is of paramount importance. All steps taken have been in accordance with UK employment law following the proper investigative and disciplinary process. We will be making no further comment on the matter."

Further, the London law firm stated that they did not make a "formal complaint" against Ms Rodriguez and did not ask Total Clean to take any action. "Total Clean carried out their own investigation and the decision to dismiss Gabriela was taken without any input or influence from Devonshires whatsoever. This is a private matter between Total Clean and Gabriela but we have made clear to Total Clean that we would not object - as we never have done - to Gabriela attending and working on our premises if Total Clean changes its position," the company told the outlet.