A woman who was sacked for slipping out from a Zoom meeting where her bosses were investigating her performance has been awarded Sh 360,000 for unprocedural dismissal.
The Labour and Industrial Relations Court in Kisumu observed that however uncouth the move by Tabitha Kamula was, her employer, Meditec East Africa Fairlife (MEAF) Ltd, owed her a sense of dignity when sacking her.
“The meeting of February 28, 2022, was not a disciplinary hearing. It was to review Ms Kamula’s performance. MEAF did not allow her the opportunity to be heard and or respond to allegations of insubordination before issuing the termination notice dated March 1, 2022. The court concludes that its decision to bring the contract to an end was devoid of procedural fairness,” said Justice Stephen Radido.
The employee who did not dispute slipping out quietly on the online meeting was sacked in a record 48 hours after skipping the hearing that is celebrated in the Reformist Employment Act of 2007.
Radido said by virtue of section 41 of the Act, MEAF was expected to notify Ms Kamula of its intention to terminate her contract and afford her an opportunity to make representations, possibly in the company of a colleague of her choice.
“It appears there were verbal exchanges between Ms Kamula and her superiors and she left the meeting before it had been formally closed. The employer felt the employee had shown insubordination to the Managing Director,” said Justice Radido.
He added: “Later the same day, the employee sent an email to the employer asking for a formal disengagement and indicating that she had been informed orally during the meeting that her contract had been terminated with immediate effect. The employer replied on March 1, 2022, that she would receive the termination letter in the course of the day.”
The court heard that after issuing her with the instructions to return company property, through G4S, MEAF’s managing director sent a notice terminating her contract.
The employer told the court Ms Kamula’s conduct, of leaving her bosses hanging on Zoom, was such that they were compelled to remove her from the office WhatsApp platform and instruct her to return company properties in her possession through courier services.
The judge, at the same time, gave the company 30 days from the date of judgment (November 1, 2023) to issue a certificate of service to Ms Kamula, who served it in the capacity of medical representative, as a statutory entitlement.
Ms Kamula nonetheless missed on her claim of Sh2.3 million, being the salary she would have earned had she served out the full term of her three-year contract.
On the claim, the court cited the Supreme Court of Uganda's judgment (Bank of Uganda vs Tinkamanyire, 2008) which holds that such claims by people whose contracts were terminated halfway were unattainable in law.