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A supermarket employee who showed off his ‘swastika’ tattoo at work has won his unfair dismissal case after a judge ruled he should have been give a ‘stern warning’ instead.   

Lidl caretaker Istvan Horvarth won an 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.

Horvarth, originally from Hungary, argued it was actually a ‘Buddhist peace symbol’. 

But this was challenged by Lidl chiefs, whose research revealed that the angle of the tattoo resembeled the Nazi symbol rather than the similar-looking Buddhist sign.

Despite this, Horvarth appealed his sacking. And now a judge ruled in Horvarth’s favour.

He is now in line for compensation after a judge concluded that while the swastika was offensive, bosses at Lidl – who said his behaviour was ‘massively inappropriate’ – should not have sacked him.

Judge Ian Miller instead said he should have received a warning about the company’s uniform policy,

Lidl employee Istvan Horvarth won an unfair dismissal claim after the budget chain sacked him after he showed the tattoo to a colleague

Lidl employee Istvan Horvarth won an unfair dismissal claim after the budget chain sacked him after he showed the tattoo to a colleague

Lidl employee Istvan Horvarth won an unfair dismissal claim after the budget chain sacked him after he showed the tattoo to a colleague

An employment tribunal in Birmingham heard that Mr Horvarth started worked at the Telford Hadley store as a caretaker in 2013.

In April 2019 a colleague – identified only as MB – complained that he had approached him on his second shift at the store to ask about his tattoos.

He claimed Mr Horvarth then showed him his swastika tattoo whilst laughing and saying it was his country’s national symbol.

Do you know Istvan Horvarth or did you work with him? 

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The colleague said: ‘(Horvarth) exposed the top of his arm and shoulder and pointed to a tattoo of the swastika symbol.

‘I thought it was disgusting for someone to brazenly show it as a proud symbol.

‘I come from a military background so I was not impressed for that to be displayed so publicly in a company that promotes equality and the acceptance of people from different backgrounds.’

MB added that he saw other far right symbols tattooed on Mr Horvarth and that the swastika was surrounded by barbed wire.

This colleague reported the incident to boss Craig Taylor who suspended Mr Horvarth after also receiving a complaint that he had kicked another colleague.

The supermarket worker who was allegedly kicked complained to Mr Taylor upon hearing about the swastika tattoo incident, saying that because she is gay the fact that he showed off the hate symbol made her ‘uncomfortable.’

The supermarket’s investigation determined that the symbol on Mr Horvarth’s arm was in fact a Nazi swastika rather than, as he claimed, a Buddhist symbol, because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45 degree angle.

He was fired after the investigation by Mr Taylor led to a disciplinary hearing conducted by Lidl Area Manager Andrew Shaw.

The supermarket's investigation determined that the symbol on Mr Horvarth's arm was in fact a Nazi swastika (like the one pictured here) because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45 degree angle.

The supermarket's investigation determined that the symbol on Mr Horvarth's arm was in fact a Nazi swastika (like the one pictured here) because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45 degree angle.

The supermarket’s investigation determined that the symbol on Mr Horvarth’s arm was in fact a Nazi swastika (like the one pictured here) because it was rotated clockwise tilted at a 45 degree angle.

Mr Shaw said in his evidence as to why he fired Mr Horvarth: ‘These are sensitive issues and I felt it was massively inappropriate for (Horvarth to be) behaving this way.

‘I felt that him showing the tattoos at work was damaging to Lidl’s reputation.’

Mr Taylor said that Mr Horvarth would often make references to his Hungarian culture and how powerful the country used to be.

‘(Horvarth) would always make reference his culture and how powerful they used to be and how much land they used to have,’ he said.

‘He used to make reference to his race a lot and would say things like Hungary used to rule the world.’

Employment Judge Ian Miller agreed that the symbol was offensive and that Lidl’s research into the tattoo did show that it resembled a swastika.

Judge Miller said: ‘Clearly it is beyond any sensible doubt that a Nazi swastika is offensive to most people for obvious reasons.’

But he ruled that a ‘stern warning about uniform policy’ would have been more reasonable than firing Mr Horvarth.

In relation to the kicking incident, Judge Miller said that, again, a warning to be more careful and sensitive around new employees would have been the most appropriate response to his behaviour.

Upholding his claim for unfair dismissal, the judge found that Mr Horvarth was not given the opportunity to respond to all the allegations against him during the investigation and disciplinary hearing processes.

Judge Miller also found he was fired because Mr Taylor and Mr Shaw had biased perceptions of him as a ‘troublemaker’ and ‘bully.’

However, his claims for race discrimination were dismissed. A hearing to determine compensation will take place at a later date.

Origins of the Swastika

According to Britannica Encyclopedia, the word swastika is actually derived from the Sanskrit ‘svastika,’ which means ‘conducive to well-being’.

While the symbol has been prominent in Nordic, Christian and Byzantine art, it is most prominently associated with India and the practice of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

The Jainas use it for their seventh Tirthankara (saint) and is said to be a symbol of rebirth.

Those that practice Hinduism use the swastika to mark the opening pages of their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings.

An Indian woman seen drawing the holy sign of Swastika during the Ambubachi festival

An Indian woman seen drawing the holy sign of Swastika during the Ambubachi festival

An Indian woman seen drawing the holy sign of Swastika during the Ambubachi festival

They also have a distinction between which hand the swastika is on.

The right-hand swastika is considered a symbol for the sun while the left-hand swastika more often stands for nighttime and the goddess Kali.

The swastika symbolizes the footprints of Buddha for Buddhists. It is often used at both the beginning and ending of inscriptions.

The swastika began its association with anti-Semitism when it was co-opted by Austrian poet and nationalist Guido von List.

Born in 1848, List is believed to have been one of the very first adopters of the swastika as an ideological symbol.

List embraced anti-Semitic views and was involved in a movement calling for the integration of Austria into the German empire.

By 1919-20, the symbol had been adopted by the virulently anti-Semitic National Socialist Party, which future Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler led from the early 1920s.

Those that practice Hinduism use the swastika to mark the opening pages of their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings

Those that practice Hinduism use the swastika to mark the opening pages of their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings

Those that practice Hinduism use the swastika to mark the opening pages of their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings

In 1935, two years after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany, the symbol was central on the national flag of Germany.

In 1938, Heinrich Himmler, the leader of Nazi paramilitary organisation the SS sent zoologist and adventurer Ernst Schafer to Tibet to reportedly search for what they believe was the lost race of ‘original’ Aryans.

Himmler himself founded the ‘Ahnenerbe’ Society, whose members had championed the bizarre notion that there had once been a ‘Nordic-Atlantic original culture’ which was destroyed when the moon crashed into the Earth.

The details of the Tibet mission are revealed in historian Peter Meier-Husing’s book Nazis in Tibet.  

Mosaic swastika in an excavated Byzantine church in Shavei Tzion, (Israel)

Mosaic swastika in an excavated Byzantine church in Shavei Tzion, (Israel)

Mosaic swastika in an excavated Byzantine church in Shavei Tzion, (Israel)

In 1935, two years after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany, the symbol was central on the national flag of Germany

In 1935, two years after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany, the symbol was central on the national flag of Germany

In 1935, two years after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany, the symbol was central on the national flag of Germany

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