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Former manager at Big Green Egg firm wins tribunal case after being ‘bullied’ by his US boss

A former manager at a barbecue company – whose products have been promoted by A-listers such as David Beckham and Liz Hurley – has won a lawsuit after making allegations against his US ex-boss.

Gavin Ford, 40, claimed that his boss, David Ezrine, “you British people would queue if a sign told you to jump off a cliff” during a foul-mouthed rant about a PowerPoint presentation.

At the time, Mr. Ford was working as an E-commerce Manager at Alfresco Concepts, based in Hampshire.

The company is the British company behind Big Green Egg – the luxury barbecue brand that sells its ceramic products for £3,000 each.

The brand has a number of high profile fans, including Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and a host of top celebrities, including Holly Willoughby, host of This Morning.

But Mr Ford said he was “bullied” by his then-boss after raising concerns about changes to GDPR laws, before being fired in 2018 for “gross misconduct”.

The company claimed the layoff was related to a number of “discoveries,” including claims that Mr. Ford deleted a key password file.

But Mr Ford, of the Isle of Wight, has now won an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal against his former company – after a judge ruled the company had failed to prove why they fired him.

A former manager at a barbecue company - whose products have been promoted by A-listers such as David Beckham and Liz Hurley (pictured) - has won a lawsuit after he filed bullying claims against his US ex-boss

A former manager at a barbecue company – whose products have been promoted by A-listers such as David Beckham and Liz Hurley (pictured) – has won a lawsuit after he filed bullying claims against his US ex-boss

Based in Hampshire, the brand has a number of high profile fans, including Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and a host of top celebrities, including former England star David Beckham (pictured with a Big Green Egg in the background)

This morning host Holly Willoughby (picture cooking on a Big Green Egg)

Based in Hampshire, the brand has a number of high profile fans, including Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and a host of top celebrities, including former England star David Beckham (pictured left with a Big Green Egg in the background) and This Morning Host Holly Willoughby (pictured right cooking on a Big Green Egg)

At the time, Mr. Ford was an e-commerce manager at Hampshire-based Alfresco Concepts (pictured)

At the time, Mr. Ford was an e-commerce manager at Hampshire-based Alfresco Concepts (pictured)

The court in Southampton, Hants, heard that Mr. Ford was working as an e-commerce manager at Alfresco Concepts Holdings, where he helped manage the company’s online sales and website.

Labor judges were told that in 2018, when the new GDPR rules came into effect across Europe, Mr Ford repeatedly expressed concern about the way the company stored personal data.

However, it was said that company director, Mr Ezrine, 51, simply “didn’t care about GDPR” and “wasn’t interested in anyone talking about GDPR.” The court heard that he would also regularly swear at the office.

In early 2018, Mr. Ford said he thought there was a “change in Mr. Ezrine’s attitude” and that he would target him specifically when he was in a bad mood.

He claimed he was regularly subjected to ‘intimidating and degrading treatment’ and on one occasion claimed he was told ‘Stop acting, we’re all riding into battle and you’re riding your pink pony to fuck everything up’ .

Giving testimony via video link from Australia, Mr. Ezrine denied this, saying: ‘It is true that I get frustrated and as a result I swear, but I never swear at people.

“I just use foul language in my everyday language, and the more frustrated I get, the more foul language I use.

‘I also speak bluntly, and I call on people when I think they are not producing what is expected of them. I do this to everyone and I certainly didn’t target or single out Gavin in this way.”

A woman who worked in the office, Valerie Lewis, said: “[Mr Ezrine] is extremely blunt and he swears regularly. He swore at everyone in the office, including his wife.’

The situation between the two men came to a head when Mr Ford gave a PowerPoint presentation on the new data protection legislation.

In his testimony, he said: ‘David seemed to get more and more annoyed as I went through it, eventually he lost his temper and yelled at me ‘You damn Brits would line up if you saw a sign telling you that you off a cliff, I don’t need a risk assessment to take a sh*t.’

Mr Ezrine, who has been granted British citizenship, said he could not recall any of the comments.

But he said if he did it would have been a joke and no one told him they were offended.

He said: ‘As for the allegedly discriminatory remarks about British people I allegedly made during Gavin’s employment, I don’t believe I ever did.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has used a Big Green Egg in the past and according to their website there is nothing quite like it.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge has used a Big Green Egg in the past and according to their website there is nothing quite like it.

Paddy McGuiness (shown here with a Big Green Egg) was previously posted about on the company's Instagram account

Paddy McGuiness (shown here with a Big Green Egg) was previously posted about on the company’s Instagram account

“I’m sure I would have commented on the UK government’s regulations and policies and how they affected businesses in the UK, but it would never have been aimed at individuals.

“I remember joking about the obstacles being put up around building permits and saying something like ‘who votes for this kind of f******g government?'”

Mr. Ford told the tribunal that on one occasion he confronted Mr. Ezrine with his views.

He said: ‘I remember saying that he was very negative and dismissive of all British and British processes and attitudes, but I also had some sympathy for the fact that some processes were outdated.

“But then I said that I thought Britain was a great place to be and that I was proud to be British.”

He added: ‘I found David’s comments about British people deeply insulting. I was so impressed with everything that had happened that I spoke to my wife Sarah as soon as I got home.’

After a restructuring of the company a short time later, Mr. Ford was informed that he was being fired.

However, after a number of discoveries allegedly made by Mr. Ezrine, regarding the deletion of a critical password storage file, Mr. Ford was informed that he would in fact be fired for gross misconduct.

Judge Jonathan Gray gave his conclusions and dismissed the harassment charge: “We find the… [British] comment was aimed at [Mr Ford] in the way he says, nor does he at the time bring it up to Ms Lewis as disturbing, humiliating or insulting to him because of the British national references.

‘Therefore we do not think it reasonable to have the effect if’ [Mr Ford] says to upset and humiliate him or to give him offense in connection with British nationality.’

He also ruled that Mr. Ford’s claims of making protected disclosures, unfair dismissal and victimization all failed.

However, he found that the company had defaulted to some extent because they were unable to prove that Mr Ford had really committed a gross misconduct and therefore the claim of wrongful dismissal was well founded.

MailOnline has contacted Mr. Ford and Alfresco Concepts for comment.

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