An almost two-decade tenure at Sainsbury’s came to an abrupt end for Niamke Doffou, a night shift assistant at the Romford store, after he was dismissed for an incident involving the unauthorised acquisition of carrier bags.

The dismissal stemmed from an early morning shopping trip following his night shift, during which Doffou neglected to pay for multiple “bags for life” at the checkout.

Despite his claim of mistakenly selecting the “zero bags used” option on the till, an employment tribunal upheld Sainsbury’s decision, ruling it as a fair termination.

The incident, which occurred in August 2022, saw Doffou purchasing goods totalling £30, including food, bedding, and pillows. CCTV footage revealed his repeated trips to collect carrier bags, yet his receipt indicated no corresponding payment for them.

In his defence, Doffou attributed the oversight to fatigue, stating he was unaware of selecting the incorrect option on the till. However, Sainsbury’s deemed his actions as dishonest and constituting theft, leading to disciplinary measures and subsequent dismissal.

Sainsbury’s maintained their stance

During the tribunal, Sainsbury’s maintained their stance, asserting the rightful termination of Doffou’s employment. When approached for comment, the supermarket declined, referring to the tribunal’s ruling.

Kate Palmer, Employment Services Director at Peninsula, highlighted the significance of procedural diligence in such cases, noting that even minor infractions can lead to severe consequences. She emphasised the necessity for employers to conduct thorough investigations and fair disciplinary procedures to mitigate the risk of unfair dismissal claims.

Palmer stated, “This case is a useful reminder that theft is theft. Even when the monetary value of the item taken is low, it could still be an act of misconduct.”

In affirming the tribunal’s ruling, Palmer concluded, “There is no evidence to suggest the business did not perform the necessary procedures for a fair dismissal. Therefore, the employment tribunal has ruled that the retailer was justified in their dismissal.”

The case serves as a cautionary tale for both employees and employers, underlining the importance of adherence to company policies and the potential ramifications of even seemingly minor transgressions.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.