A NURSERY chef who was sacked after being accused of leaving out colleagues when he baked Valentine's Day biscuits has won almost £35,000.

Mike Harding, 30, was accused of snubbing the two women 'deliberately' when he made the heart-shaped shortbread treats for everybody except them.

After he was fired, Mike took nursery firm Bright Horizons to court alleging that the "clique" of female bosses had "colluded" against him.

They had also accused him of burning a cake made for his boss and throwing it away because he didn't like her.

The court ruled that the misconduct allegations against him were trivial, and he won claims for unfair dismissal and sex-based discrimination.

He walked away with £33,666.

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Mike started working at the Wokingham Day Nursery and Preschool in 2013, and seven years later his bosses expressed concerns about him and put him on a performance improvement plan.

He said this move was "drastic" and that he thought the bosses were trying to force him out.

In April 2020 when the nursery closed due to the pandemic, some serious allegations were made by whistle-blowers about the female management team.

The team believed that Mike was responsible for raising these, and in July he was told he was being investigated for possible misconduct.

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These charges were that he had burnt and thrown away the cake for his boss, and deliberately left out two staff members when baking heart-shaped Valentine's Day biscuits.

He was also accused of blocking a colleague from leaving the toilet and following another female member of staff into the toilets three times, five years ago.

After a disciplinary meeting in August 2020, the bosses decided to dismiss him in October.

The reasons he was fired were dismissed as trivial by the court.

Employment Judge Sarah George said: "One does not always like everyone in one’s workplace"

"No reasonable employer could discipline for this taken on its own with an employee with no live disciplinary warnings even had it been taken together with the birthday cake allegation."

On the 'deliberate' cake burn she said: "The opinion that a chef could have taken a cake out of the oven is a poor basis for concluding that he deliberately burnt it."

"We are of the view that the investigation was not within the range of reasonable responses and there were no reasonable grounds for the belief that Mr Harding had committed the misconduct alleged. He was unfairly dismissed."

The court concluded that Mike did not behave in a way which justified his dismissal without notice, and he was awarded £33,666 in damages.

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