A supermarket worker who showed off his swastika tattoo at work won his unfair dismissal case after a judge ruled he should have been given a severe warning instead.
Lidl caretaker Istvan Horvarth won his unfair dismissal claim after the budget chain sacked him from his job at the Telford Hadley store in Shropshire after he showed the tattoo to a colleague.
But this was challenged by Lidl chiefs, whose research revealed that the angle of the tattoo resembled the Nazi symbol rather than the similar-looking Buddish sign.
Despite this, Istvan Horvarth appealed his sacking, but now a judge has ruled in his favour, and he’s now in line for compensation after a judge decided that while the swastika was offensive, bosses at Lidl, who said his behaviour was massively inappropriate, shouldn’t have fired him.
Judge Ian Miller instead said he should have got a warning about the company’s uniform policy.
An employment tribunal in Birmingham heard that Istvan Horvarth began work at the Telford Hadley store as a caretaker in 2013.
In April 2019 a co-worker, identified only as MB, complained that he’d approached him on his second shift at the store to ask about his tattoos.
He maintained Istvan Horvarth then showed him his swastika tattoo whilst laughing and saying it was his country’s national symbol.
The colleague said Istvan Horvarth showed the top of his arm and shoulder and pointed to a tattoo of the swastika symbol, but he believed it was offensive for someone to brazenly show it as a proud symbol.
And he said that he came from a military background, so wasn’t impressed for that to be displayed so openly in a company that encourages equality and acceptance of people from diverse backgrounds.
MB added that he saw other far-right insignia tattooed on Istvan Horvarth and that the swastika was surrounded by barbed wire, and he reported the incident to his boss Craig Taylor who suspended Istvan Horvarth after also receiving a complaint that he’d kicked another co-worker.
The supermarket worker who was supposedly kicked complained to Craig Taylor upon learning about the swastika tattoo incident, saying that because she’s gay, the fact that he showed off the hate symbol made her uncomfortable.
The supermarket’s investigation concluded that the symbol on Istvan Horvarth’s arm was in fact a Nazi swastika rather than, as he maintained, a Buddist symbol because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45-degree angle.
This sounds more like the law of blasphemy, and it looks like it was a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t – at least the supermarket will get positive publicity from this.
Some people get really offended by the whole swastika symbol, 卐 (right-facing or clockwise) or 卍 (left-facing, counterclockwise, or sauwastika), which is an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia, and was used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and just because some moustached fool chose to use it for his purposes doesn’t alter its actual meaning.
However, it’s the intent of the wearer as to what it’s thought to represent that matters, and it seems like the judge would have said a stern warning would be appropriate for anything this guy did, and it might be controversial to some but it’s his personal decision as to what he has inked on his body or what he believes in, but that doesn’t mean he has to parade it and upset people.