Woman awarded $32,000 after being excluded from her company’s “Pizza Fridays”

A cheese pizza cut into slices on a wood cutting board
Photo: Tasos Katopodis (Getty Images)

Pizza, by design, is meant to be shared with others, and intentionally excluding someone from a communal pizza feast is nothing short of criminal. Lest you think a statement like this is hyperbolic, a British court has ordered an auto dealership to pay nearly $32,000 in damages to a former receptionist who was knowingly and maliciously excluded from its communal “Pizza Fridays.” There is no room for bullying in this world, especially when the bullying is pizza-related.

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Newsweek reports that on the last Friday of every month, the management of Hartwell Ford in Watford, U.K. would order takeout for the entire office, except for receptionist Malgorzata Lewicka. According to her testimony, all of her coworkers were asked what restaurant they’d like to order this special lunch from, and were invited to share in the bounty of corporate takeout with their fellow employees. When Lewicka joined the company in 2014, she had been allowed to join in on the pizza fun, but all of that changed in March 2018, Lewicka explained, when she accused another staff member of sexual discrimination. A company investigation concluded the accused employee did behave inappropriately, and was punished with a written warning.

Even though Lewicka’s allegations proved to be true, she herself felt punished by her coworkers; according to testimony presented to the court, several Hartwell Ford employees refused to speak to Lewicka after she filed the complaint. In January 2019, Lewicka was laid off after the company decided that her position needed to be a full-time role instead (Lewicka, as a single mother with child care commitments, had performed the role as a part-time worker).

Hartwell claimed Lewicka was excluded from Pizza Fridays because she finished her workday at 1 p.m., but Judge Jennifer Bartlett did not buy this excuse, since Lewicka had been invited to participate in the lunch order during her previous years with the company. Judge Bartlett ruled that Lewicka’s treatment amounted to sexual discrimination and that Hartwell had engaged in a “campaign of victimization” and ordered the company to pay Lewicka £23,000 (about $32,000) in damages. Pizza is meant to bring people together, not be wielded as a tool for tearing them apart.

Allison Robicelli is a JBFA-nominated food & humor writer, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Need cooking advice? Tweet me @Robicellis.

DISCUSSION

Dead Elvis, Inc.

If my work experience is anything more than anecdotal, she should have considered herself lucky to be excluded from company pizza parties. I’d have relished *not* having had to participate in any company meals, regardless of them being couched as a reward or some sort of team-building bullshit. It’s always the cheapest possible, lukewarm by the time you get any (hot or cold is good - room temp pizza sucks), and I don’t want to get to know the folks in marketing or accounting.