Court awards staff fired following Lucy Kibaki funeral convoy delay

Justice Stella Rutto ruled that the manner in which the hospital treated the three employees was unfair.  [Courtesy]

A judge has ordered a hospital to compensate two employees it sacked for reporting late to work after being caught up in traffic.

The traffic, the court heard, was caused by former First Lady Lucy Kibaki’s funeral convoy.

Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Stella Rutto ordered Bliss Healthcare Limited to compensate Lucy Wanja and Augustine Sitati for unfairly sacking them on May 7, 2016. The court said it was not their mistake.

“The hospital did not satisfy the requirement of substantive fairness as no reason was advanced to justify the termination of employment. The claimants are entitled to compensation equivalent to four months’ salary and one-month salary in lieu of notice,” Rutto said.

She ordered that Wanja, who at the time of her sacking was a nurse with a monthly salary of Sh25,000 be compensated Sh125,000 while Sitati who was a laboratory technician with a monthly salary of Sh35,000 be compensated Sh175,000.

Justice Rutto also ordered the hospital to pay another former employee Stella Gitonga Sh107,000 after her contract was terminated for failing to report to work after her son fell ill.

Convoy escorting hearse ferrying Lucy Kibaki's body for a requiem at Consolata Shrine, Westlands. May 2016. [Moses Omusula, Standard]

Wanja and Sitati said on May 7, 2016, they were separately on their way to the hospital via Thika Road when they were caught up in unusual traffic.

A section of the road was closed to pave way for Lucy’s funeral convoy.

According to the two, they were only 30 minutes late, but when they arrived at the hospital, they were summoned to the nursing room and asked to explain.

They stated the reason but the hospital management verbally informed them that their services had been terminated.

Gitonga, who was employed by the hospital as a data clerk, said on May 7, 2016, her son fell sick. She called the Human Resource manager and informed her she would not be able to report to work.

She said in the course of that day while attending to her sick child, she received a call from the hospital informing that her contract had been terminated.

Justice Rutto ruled that the manner in which the hospital treated the three employees was unfair since it did not explain the reasons for sacking them.

“The hospital acted contrary to Section 45 (2) of the Employment Act which provides that a termination of employment is unfair if the employer fails to prove that the reason for the termination is valid, fair and relates to the employee’s conduct or capacity,” she ruled.

Hearse ferrying Lucy Kibaki's body at Karatina Town in Mathira, Nyeri County. May 2016. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The judge added that the hospital was supposed to notify the employees of the intended termination and the reasons for termination at least one month before they are sacked.

She ruled that there was no evidence to prove the claimants were notified of reasons to warrant their sacking or whether they gave the three opportunity to defend themselves for coming late to work and for missing work for a day.

“It is not sufficient that the employer spells out the reason for the termination. The same must be justified and ought to be valid and fair.”

The reason ought to have been clearly spelt out in the letters of termination and backed by evidence but apparently, this was not done,” ruled the judge.

She ordered that the total awards will include 12 per cent interest from the end of this month until payment in full.

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