Devon

Autistic chef 'exploited' by Plymouth's Astor hotel

Joseph Louei
Image caption Hotelier Mr Louei said the employment tribunal had made him out to be a "monster"

A hotelier who paid an autistic chef £95 a week because he "thought he could get away with it", must pay him more than £40,000 compensation.

An employment tribunal condemned Joseph Louei for exploiting a "vulnerable and disabled young man".

The owner of the Astor Hotel in Plymouth claimed 23-year-old Adam O'Dee had to be "carried and pampered".

The tribunal heard Mr Louei threatened the chef with the sack "for taking too much off the end of a cucumber".

Mr O'Dee, from Plymouth, won his claims for unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and minimum pay.

'Beggers belief'

Mr Louei was also accused of throwing frozen bread rolls around the kitchen after wrongly blaming the chef for not taking them out of the freezer.

Mr O'Dee, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and dyslexia, resigned claiming he was harassed and victimised by Mr Louei.

He was paid less than half the national minimum hourly rate of £6.08 for people aged 21 or over - described by the tribunal judge John Hollow as a "very substantial underpayment".

Image caption Mr O'Dee started work at the Astor Hotel as a trainee chef in February 2010

"It beggars belief that a businessman of 25 years' standing should accept that a very vulnerable individual could properly be employed at £90 or £95 per week for a full week's work," he said.

"This was nothing more than exploitation of a very vulnerable young man.

"This was done because Mr O'Dee was disabled and Mr Louei thought he could get away with it."

The tribunal panel also said the chef was victimised after complaining of disability discrimination.

Evidence from Mr Louei and two of his witnesses was described as unsatisfactory and unreliable, with "many discrepancies and contradictions".

'Never lie'

Mr O'Dee began working as a trainee chef at the hotel on Plymouth Hoe in February 2010, having been introduced by Remploy, which helps disabled people find work.

He was not paid for working extra hours at weekends and busy times like Christmas, because Mr Louei said this would give him extra experience.

Working additional hours for no remuneration was "extraordinary and incomprehensible", the tribunal said.

Mr Louei said he had been made out to be a "monster" and treated like a criminal.

He denied abusing his employees and said he had not lied to the tribunal.

"I never, ever lie... Adam did not produce any work - he had to be carried and pampered," he said.

The compensation package awarded by the tribunal includes loss of earnings, injury to feelings and unfair dismissal.

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