Manager sacked over food leftovers

The court was told that leftovers were foodstuffs not sold to customers. [Courtesy]

Did you know hotels and restaurants have policies on the food leftovers from your plate?

They are policies with dire consequences that bar workers from carrying such food home or even for the chef to cook for customers the leftovers.

But for the love of her pet, a restaurant manager in one of the leading eateries in Nairobi County was sacked for packing food from a dustbin for her dog.

The manager who had served the eatery for close to 10 years was shown the door by her employer without being given time to attend to the disciplinary hearing, but the Employment Court ordered she be paid money equivalent to her one-month salary and in lieu of 14 days of untaken leave.

Artcaffe Coffee and Bakery Limited is to pay Sheila Akaliche Sh75,000 one-month salary, untaken leave days (Sh35,000), and give her a certificate of service within 30 days.

Employment Court judge Nduma Nderi said the money is to accrue interest at court rates from April 29 when the judgment was delivered, till payment in full.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the respondent to pay the aforesaid terminal benefits and grant the Certificate of Service to the Appellant, only if it has not done so to date,” the judge said.

He said the restaurant did not fully adhere to its internal disciplinary procedure in that it had abridged the time frame within which Akaliche was to attend the disciplinary hearing, adding that this does not change the validity of her own admission that she violated the company policy.

Akaliche’s tribulations started in May 2019 when she collected food from the dustbin and packed it for her dog back at home.

However, the branch manager reported her to the Human resource manager who ordered her to respond to a show-cause letter immediately.

Akaliche, who climbed through the ladder from being a waitress to the top position, was accused of taking the food in disregard of the policies that had been communicated to staff.

The court was told that leftovers were foodstuffs not sold to customers or which remained, adding that the staff would return them to the main kitchen at Baba Dogo to give it to the staff at the mall who would then dispose of it as leftover. 

Akaliche who is trained in food and beverage handling was given an hour to attend a disciplinary hearing with a witness by the company but unable to get a witness to testify in her favour within one hour, she denied having stolen the leftovers but admitted to having taken some from the dustbin.

She was summarily dismissed and aggrieved by the company’s decision, Akaliche filed a case at the magistrate’s court, claiming that the dismissal was unfair and unlawful.

Benjamin Otieno who worked as a chef at the company and was a shop steward at the time, testified that the leftover policy of the employer applied to every company staff and what had happened was within the policy.

Under cross-examination, Benjamin told the court that she brought the leftover food in a container and said it was for her dog, adding that the company does not sell leftover food and he did not know if the company suffered any loss from the leftover food taken by Akaliche. 

Virginia Wambui, the company’s Human Resource boss, said in terms of the leftover policy, no staff is supposed to take leftovers, adding that the policy was in place for the last three years and was documented. 

Chief Magistrate Ada Obura ruled that the employer was justified in sacking the manager for contravening the policy on leftovers, a decision that led to her filing an appeal before the Employment court.

In her appeal, she claimed that the magistrate erred in holding that her dismissal was fair, lawful and in accordance with the law, which holding Akaliche said was totally against the weight of evidence placed on record by the parties and therefore erroneous.

She claimed the magistrate erred in law and fact in failing to hold that the company failed to follow its own internal dispute resolution procedure and Human Resource manual by failing to grant her sufficient time to respond to the notice to show cause and defend herself.