10:15AM, Friday 08 April 2016
A furious mother of a disabled child who was the victim of ‘prejudice and discrimination’ during a trip to a cafe in Windsor has hit out at the High Street chain.
Melissa Stewart, from Holyport, took her five-year-old daughter, Gabriella, to Pret A Manger in King Edward Court on Thursday, March 31, for what she thought would be an enjoyable lunchtime trip.
Gabriella suffers from Global Development Delay, a condition which affects her development and means she cannot speak and has difficulty understanding things.
During their lunch, the youngster was making loud noises in an effort to communicate with her mother.
To Melissa’s shock, a member of the fast food chain’s staff approached the pair and demanded that Gabriella stopped making a noise.
Melissa said: “I told him that my daughter has special needs, cannot understand and has no speech.
“He continued to tell me that I needed to stop her from making these noises and walked away as though he wanted to hear no more.”
Melissa, who is married to Maidenhead United Football Club director Mark Stewart, told the Express that despite complaining to the shop’s shift manager, the abusive employee failed to apologise.
The next day she lodged a complaint with the Pret A Manger head office and received a personal phone call from its chief executive Clive Schlee, apologising for the incident.
But Melissa now wants to see action taken against the employee to ensure parents of disabled children from across the borough do not suffer the same treatment.
She said: “We deal with some not very nice people in the public with comments and stares, but I do not expect to experience this prejudice and discrimination from a member of staff in a well-known restaurant.
“It is disgraceful that someone like this is allowed to work with the general public with the attitude he has.”
A Pret spokesperson said: “We were very concerned to hear about this incident last week. Clive, our CEO, has spoken to the customer to personally apologise and we are conducting a full internal investigation into the matter.”
An independent report into a Conservative councillor has found a breach of the Royal Borough’s code of conduct in a document seen by the Advertiser.