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At the bottom of this page I highlight a few things that I also experienced in Pret’s bullying environment. I link to the full 19 page court document of this lawsuit.
In light of the police violence and the death of George Floyd, sparking worldwide anti-racism protests, some former Pret staff speak out on social media on Pret’s Black Lives Matter posts. The below Tweets are only those they car to post, not having checked Facebook, Instagram etc. The problem is bigger than meets the eye.
Former Employee Tweets:
Employee Reviews Glassoor / Indeed:
An Italian review on racism:
A USA review on racism:
etc. etc. etc.
There are countless more reviews and complaints on various platforms along the lines of racism, slavery, favouritism, discrimination etc., not just on Glassdoor and Indeed. But I just stumbled across a 2012 article by The Voice of two black employees who are very specific in describing their experience. And their experience sounds very familiar of the systemic bullying environment in Pret A Manger. The claim that Pret treated them as “slaves” is a very common complaint on Review sites and YouTube etc.
Link to The Voice article in 2012.
There’s a reason why Pret and its leadership have such poor scores on Glassdoor & Co, and why Cliver Schlee, former CEO, left with this legacy:
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The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in → Pret Staff Complaints, including at Head Office and Management complaints, please scroll down to the screenshots in this article:
>>> LINK to the Court document of the lawsuit
BATTLE v Pret A Manger.
I’m aware that these are alleged accounts of Ms Battle. But I want to highlight a few things from my own experience with Pret and what I witnessed with colleagues. Please take the time to read the above 19 page court document. It really shows the systemic culture and hostile work environment which includes subtle bullying. Ms Battle’s experience though shows how hostile shops in the U.S. are, and many U.S. reviews keep saying the same thing over the years of favouritism, racism, bullying.
I want to highlight as well, that in the shops where I worked I never heard the N-Word, but I witnessed subtle racism and backbiting. As a Team Leader I always immediately spoke out against any form of discrimination against race, gender, sexual orientation etc. My colleagues knew that I won’t tolerate any form of discrimination. But there was always the subtle type of racism where a colleague for example complained about another Team Member and always felt the need to mention that they were Black. My response was “Why do you need to mention that they’re Black?” With that I never heard any more subtle comments from those who made mentioned like this. My Teams knew that I would not tolerate ANY form of discrimination.
I also was contacted a few months ago by a then current Pret employee from the U.S. who complained to me about their shop mainly employing Hispanic workers. I immediately spoke up that I won’t accept racism. In hindsight as well, this may have been a mention of the 60 Broad St New York shop that Ms Battle from the lawsuit here worked at. But I don’t know this. And as the person kept ranting about Hispanic staff, I blocked them. Unfortunately I didn’t do a screenshot of the complaint, even though that complaint may still be there as it was made publicly on MY Facebook feed. But for the life of me, I can’t find it due to having blocked and can’t remember the Facebook account of the person! Oh well …
Page 6 of PDF document, point # 20:
“[Manager] Ramos also accepted and normalized the use of the N-word by Team Members.”
My comment: That’s why this became so aggressively rampant in several shops.
Page7 , point 23:
“Despite her complaint to Ramos, Plaintiff’s coworkers and supervisors continued to use racial slurs in her presence on a regular basis.”
Very typical Pret A Manger that complaints fall on deaf ears.
Page 8, point 25:
“After Plaintiff explained to her coworkers that she was offended by their use of racial slurs, they began to use it even more frequently in her presence.”
Yep, also typical in Pret. You raise an issue, and they do it even more.
Page 9, point 30:
“Ramos [Manager] did not discipline the Team Member for her use of racial slurs.”
Again, very typical Pret.
Page 9, point 31:
“Ramos initially cut Plaintiff’s hours below 30 per week in or around January 2018. When Plaintiff complained to Ramos that he had cut her hours below full time, he told her it was just for that week. Then it happened again the next week and the week after that.”
This is a CLASSICAL bullying tactic. Cutting hours down, no matter if the contracted hours are higher, and initially just saying that this would be temporary. I had that many, many times in Pret. One Manager even cut a whole week to ZERO, and that DURING the Christmas period in 2017 shortly after my dad came out of his coma! It is a classical attempt to make employees resign in desperation to leave this toxic environment.
Page 9, point 32:
“Plaintiff was also harassed and discriminated against in many smaller ways that cumulatively degraded the conditions of her employment. Another African American coworker named Destiny suffered many of these same indignities. By way of example, Plaintiff and Destiny were ordered by supervisors, usually Ramos, to take out the garbage a disproportionate number of times. This was especially remarkable because female workers at 60 Broad were not usually tasked with dragging the heavy trash bags to the garbage dump. Seeing Plaintiff dragging these bags to the garbage dump, the garbage man asked her, “What are you doing back here? I never heard of them sending a female to do garbage pickup.””
Bullying takes on many different forms including subtle harassment and unfavourable treatment being sent to do menial or degrading tasks repeatedly. I was ordered by a Manager once when I was the Team Leader IN FRONT of a 16 year old apprentice to stock up bananas!
Now I stocked up bananas, I cleaned the toilets and got my hands dirty as a Team Leader like everyone else. My colleagues knew that I didn’t shy away from menial tasks and that it was important to me that we worked as a Team and that if I as the Team Leader can clean the toilets, they can after some tried to talk themselves out of certain jobs. SO, doing these “menial” tasks wasn’t an issue for me whatsoever. But what this GM did was to systematically bully in very subtle ways, in front of others, in this case a 16 year old apprentice. It’s a classical bullying strategy as well, especially since this GM knew how hard I worked and how well I lead the Team for us to work together like clockwork and as a strong Team where no-one is more important than the other.
This Manager would do that with anyone he disliked or was upset with for whatever reason, not just with me. He would order us to do menial tasks and ordered this in front of staff. These were very subtle and passive aggressive bullying tactics, just to humiliate especially staff who were in position of leadership.
Page 9, points 33 & 34:
“On orders from Rosario and Ramos, Plaintiff and Destiny also made a disproportionate amount of deliveries during the winter when the weather was cold and it was snowing. … With reference to the menial tasks given to Plaintiff, a Team Member named Jasmine asked Plaintiff, “Why are they asking one person to do everything?””
Page 10, point 37:
“The N -word was used pervasively by employees at those other Pret locations, as well.”
Pages 10 & 11 , points 38 & 39:
“… Burke [HR] said she was just there to deal with the hours issue, and that if Plaintiff had a different issue Plaintiff should call a hotline dedicated to dealing with complaints. 39.In or around early April, Plaintiff called the hotline to which the human resources representative had referred her. The call went to voicemail. Plaintiff left a voicemail during which she complained about her hours being cut and that her shop was “a hostile work environment.””
HR ignored Ms Battle’s complaint about racist slurs and did the typical thing Pret HR does, sending people away to call some hotline which goes to an automated voice mail only.
Page 11, point 41:
“Gregorio [HR] sent Plaintiff an email write-up that mischaracterized and/or omitted many of the issues Plaintiff raised. Notably absent from the write-up was any mention of racial slurs, including the incident Plaintiff told Gregorio about.”
Yep, typical Pret HR behaviour, leaving vital issues out and/or distracting from the main issues raised.
Page 14, point 55 & 56:
“On July 12, 2018 Plaintiff sent Gregorio an email in which she cited, among other concerns, her coworkers’ use of racial slurs and the lack of action taken in response to her prior complaints. She also mentioned that she had sent Ramos a text about her concerns and that he had not responded and refused to discuss her concerns. Faced with these explicit, written complaints, Pret lurched into action, albeit a kind both belated and insufficient.”
Once Ms Battle put her complaint in writing in an email, Pret suddenly responded, but insufficient of course.
In a lawsuit in 2010 in the UK a Judge ruled in favour of a former Pret worker who sued Pret for unfair dismissal. The Judge mentioned Pret’s HR hearings being quote, “fundamentally flawed”. The Judge further mentioned that the appeal’s hearings also were “fundamentally flawed”. This is a systemic problem in Pret since years as I have experienced and won’t change unless Pret is hit more seriously with high penalties. The peanuts Pret is always ordered to pay is a joke and doesn’t make them change the toxic foundation of this company.
Link to Tribunal Judge’s ruling on Pret’s flawed HR hearings, page 10 top check mark.
Page 15, point 57:
“In or around August 4, 2018 Gregorio sent Plaintiff a follow up email in which she shared the results of her investigation. Under the heading “Inappropriate Language” she confirmed that she was able to substantiate Plaintiff’s allegations that racial slurs are used in the shop. Under the heading “Hostile Work Environment” she confirmed that she was able to substantiate Plaintiff’s concerns…”
But only AFTER Plaintiff put her complaints in WRITING via email!
Page 15, point 58:
“Despite these findings, Pret did not terminate Ramos’s employment.”
Why should Pret fire him, they would have to fire the majority of the company!
Well done for Ms Battle with the cool name reflecting her fighting spirit to go all the way to court! In the U.S. it’s much easier to go to court than in the UK and Europe. Pret had to pay 4000 workers back TWICE after being sued in NY for not paying correct wages.
I explain in my interview in below audio player why I withdrew my court case against Pret. But I will never be silent about Pret A Manger’s toxic and corrupt work ethics behind their smiley PR facade!
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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