Suffolk

Specsavers suspends employee over war veteran 'discrimination'

Steve Leale Image copyright Steve Leale
Image caption Steve Leale said he had served in the British Army 1983-2015 and toured in Afghanistan and Iraq

A staff member at an opticians has been suspended after allegedly accusing a soldier of "killing innocent people".

As first reported in the East Anglian Daily Times, Steve Leale said Specsavers in Woodbridge, Suffolk, would not acknowledge his veteran status, which could entitle him to priority treatment.

He said he was asked "why should you have that after invading countries?".

Specsavers said the alleged comments "do not represent" the company's views.

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Mr Leale, 54, said he was at the store, in Thoroughfare, for an eye examination and was told he had to be referred to the hospital.

Image caption Specsavers says the alleged comments "do not represent the views" of the company

He said he asked the staff member to state on his notes he was a war veteran, which he said could get him a priority appointment in hospital, although he did not expect to be seen ahead of any emergencies.

'Specsavers supports veterans'

Under NHS guidelines, all veterans are entitled to priority access to NHS care for conditions associated with their time within the armed forces.

Mr Leale said when he explained the "supposedly faster appointment", the staff member allegedly asked "why should you have that after invading countries around the world and killing innocent people?".

"I was gobsmacked," he said.

"It's not Specsavers, it's purely a disgruntled employee."

Specsavers said the employee had been suspended pending a disciplinary investigation.

It said: "The alleged comments do not represent the views of Specsavers, who are active supporters of Blind Veterans UK, a charity which cares for former military personnel with sight problems."

Mr Leale, who lives locally and is originally from Guernsey, said he had been in the Army 1983-2015 and had served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

He said he now works in accountancy and for an online gardening business.

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