Manager given the sack over internet use granted Sh1m

Closeup of a wireless router and a man using a smartphone in the living room at the home office. [Getty Images]

Back in 2014, Caroline Njeri got the exciting news that she would be the country manager of Dig Deep Africa, a Non-Governmental Organisation.

However, three years into her employment, she was kicked out on what Dig Deep Afroca claimed was a breach of contract and allegedly acting in a dishonest manner.

She filed a case before the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which lifted the veil of why the employer decided to part ways with her.

Njeri was fired over internet use.

After hearing the case, Justice Stella Rutto determined that Dig Deep Africa had no valid or fair reason to kick her out. She awarded her more than Sh1 million as compensation for unfair termination.

“Considering the totality of the circumstances at hand and specifically noting the context in which the claimant was required to give her statement during the investigation hearing, it is my considered view that no reasonable employer would terminate an employee on grounds of dishonesty,” said Justice Rutto.

Njeri narrated that on May 15, 2017, she was summoned to the office of the line manager who informed her that she was subject to investigation over alleged misuse of computer and internet in the office.

She said that the line manager then interrogated her. Among the sites she was accused of accessing using the office internet was Global Career Fair, a work search engine.

Two days later, she was asked to resign on the basis that the trust between her and the charity was irreparable.

However, she opted to go through a disciplinary process. She was accused of misusing 40 per cent of the office's internet.

She asked how her employer had come up with a figure on internet use but she never got an answer.

Njeri was summarily fired on the basis of being dishonest.

While accusing her employer of witch hunt, she told the court that the NGO ought to have issued a warning.

On the other hand, Dig Deep Africa called James Michael Haughton, the country director, as the star witness.

Haughton said that among the terms of conditions of employment, excessive use of work computers and the internet was prohibited. 

He stated that sometime in May 2017, it was suspected that Njeri was excessively using her assigned computer and internet.

Upon investigations, he discovered that Njeri had been seeking employment elsewhere during working hours.

She stated that firing Njeri was out of good faith, adding that the executive director concurred that there was misconduct that necessitated disciplinary action.

But Justice Rutto argued there was an inescapable conclusion that Njeri was ambushed.

“One wonders why the respondent failed to conduct comprehensive investigations and gather sufficient evidence prior to asking the claimant to give her responses on issues she was not very clear about at that point in time,” she said.

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