The reputational fallout of a dismissal: When third parties are affected

Employment Law, For Employers, Human Resources, Law Updates

In a recent case that has attracted significant attention, a cleaner’s dismissal for eating a leftover tuna sandwich has legal claims and shows important lessons about reputation management.

Gabriela Rodriguez, an Ecuadorian cleaner employed by a subcontractor (Total Clean), took legal action against Devonshires Solicitors for race discrimination, but what’s more interesting is the reputational damage that has been caused to that firm. This blog post explores the case details, the union’s involvement, and the reputational consequences that can unfold from mishandled employment matters.

Case facts

Gabriela Rodriguez worked as a cleaner at Total Clean, subcontracted to Devonshires Solicitors for two years. The United Voices of the World union (UVW), which advocates for the rights of migrant workers, alleges that she was fired by Total Clean, following a complaint from Devonshires about leftover sandwiches not being returned.

Rodriguez had consumed a £1.50 tuna sandwich, mistakenly believing it would be discarded after a meeting. The grounds for her dismissal were documented as taking “client property without authority or reasonable excuse”.

Significance of union’s involvement

The UVW rallied behind Rodriguez, organising a protest outside Devonshires’s offices on Valentine’s Day this year. The demonstration entailed delivering 100 cans of tuna, 300 hand-wrapped sandwiches, helium heart-shaped balloons, and love letters to support her cause.

Petros Elia, the general secretary of UVW, emphasised how cleaners often experience dismissals on trivial and discriminatory grounds, and vowed to fight for the respect, dignity, and equality of all workers.

Reputational damage and legal action

The ongoing legal action includes claims of unfair dismissal and direct race discrimination against Total Clean, and direct and/or indirect race discrimination against Devonshires Solicitors. It alleges that Devonshires made a complaint about her having ate the sandwich, causing the fallout that took place.

UVW contends that Devonshires’s request for Rodriguez’s removal was an act of discrimination, suggesting that had she not been a Latin American with limited English, the complaint leading to her dismissal would not have occurred. Reputational damage has extended beyond Total Clean, with headlines focusing on Devonshires despite its lack of involvement in the dismissal decision.

Responses from Total Clean and Devonshires

Total Clean responded to the allegations made by Rodriguez, emphasising its commitment to maintaining the integrity of its workforce and dealing appropriately with actions that undermine their hard work and reputation. The company claimed that the dismissal was conducted following proper investigative and disciplinary procedures in compliance with UK employment law.

Devonshires has clarified that it did not make a formal complaint against Rodriguez and explicitly instructed Total Clean not to take any action against her. The law firm maintains that the decision to dismiss Rodriguez was made solely by Total Clean, without its input or influence. Devonshires expressed a willingness for Rodriguez to return to its premises if Total Clean changes its position.

So what?

This case highlights the unintended reputational consequences that can arise from mishandled employment matters. The involvement of a renowned City law firm in a case they were not directly responsible for demonstrates the significant impact on an organisation’s reputation.

It would not be surprising if, as a result of the reputational damage of this claim, Devonshires chose not to renew its contract with Total Clean.

For Total Clean, the impact of losing any such work could be huge.

As employers, it is imperative to manage employment matters effectively, communicate clearly, and address any misconceptions promptly to protect the reputation of the organisation and foster a positive employer brand.

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Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at which the date it was published. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any actions. Please contact us if you have any questions on

This blog was prepared with assistance from Generative AI.

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