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Personal Assistant on Sh250K salary loses job for failing to get CEO holiday visa

The complainant, who was serving as the PA of the CEO, was on a Sh251,000 monthly salary. [iStockphoto]

An employee of Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited has lost a case in which she sued her former employer for unfair dismissal.

Jacinta Wambua, who was on a Sh251,250 monthly salary, served as the Personal Assistant (PA) of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Greg Brackenridge.

Wambua was sacked on April 20, 2018 after she failed to help process a tourist visa for Brackenridge.

The CEO was to travel to Malta, Czech Republic and Germany for his holiday in December 2017.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court heard that on November 10, 2017 Brackenridge asked Wambua to organise his tourist visa, but the PA failed to do so on time, resulting in the Stanbic boss missing out on his out-of-country holiday.

Wambua had told the court that Brackenridge was to travel on December 23, 2017.

According to Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited, which was listed by the complainant as the respondent, Wambua did not act on the CEO's request until December 11, 2017, which was "too late" to have the visa processed by December 23.

"The complainant says that failure to secure visa for one Mr Greg Brackenridge was not occasioned by the claimant's fault or negligence but because Mr Brackenridge did not provide the requisite documents within the expected/reasonable time," Justice Anna Mwaure said in her ruling, citing the complainant's affidavit.

Stanbic Bank, however, said that the PA did not ask Brackenridge for the needed documents for almost one month, until when she was asked about the visa progress on December 11, 2017.

"There is no evidence as to the delay between 10th November 2017 to 11th December 2017. Hence the loss of time then meant there was delay in processing the visa on time and, therefore, the executive director could not make it to his Christmas holidays with his family," Stanbic Bank submitted in its affidavit.

The bank said besides managing the CEO's diary, it was Wambua's duty to "prepare, schedule and diarise meetings, identify, schedule the appropriate venue, travel and conference accommodation, both locally and internationally".

"These duties required proactivity on the part of the claimant to make sure there is no lacuna in the performance of the chief executive's duties," said Stanbic Bank.

"That in itself gives the impression that the claimant was negligent in this instance and that act cost the chief executive moneys for cancellation of the accommodation and inconvenience to him and his family over 2017 Christmas vacation."

The bank would, on April 6, 2018, hold a disciplinary hearing against Wambua, citing negligence in dispensing her duties.

"The claimant was asked to invite a fellow colleague as her witness and she said she would not call one," the court heard.

She was, thereafter, relieved of her duties on April 20, 2018.

In her suit against Stanbic, which was filed on November 1, 2018, Wambua argued that Stanbic "conducted an unlawful and irregular disciplinary proceeding and by a letter of 20th April 2018 the respondent maliciously and unlawfully terminated her employment".

She further argued that Brackenridge's failure to provide the requisite documents on time led to the delay in his visa processing, and not the said-negligence cited in her termination letter.

She further argued that visa processing for the CEO's holiday travel was outside her work mandate.

Wambua wanted the court to declare that her dismissal was unfair, her salary arrears for the entire period she was out of employment be paid, and that she receives damages for unlawful dismissal.

At the same time, Wambua asked the court to order Stanbic Bank to reinstate her to her previous position without loss of any benefits.

In her ruling, Justice Anna Mwaure dismissed Wambua's case, saying Stanbic had proved that she was accorded fair hearing before her employment was discontinued.

"The respondent, in terms of following due procedure, complied. He (CEO Greg Brackenridge) sent her a notice to show cause on 28th December 2017 and asked her to respond by 2nd January 2018. She ended up writing a response on 12th January 2018. After the notice to show cause response, she was invited for disciplinary hearing and was asked to invite a fellow colleague as her witness. The disciplinary hearing was to take place on 26th February 2018, but the claimant said she was unwell."

The bank produced in court minutes of the disciplinary hearing, which was held later on April 6, 2018.

"It is evident the respondent complied with the procedure well provided in Section 41 of the Employment Act," said Justice Mwaure.

Section 41 (1) of the Act states "An employer shall, before terminating the employment of an employee, on the grounds of misconduct, poor performance or physical incapacity, explain to the employee, in a language the employee understands, the reason for which the employer is considering termination and the employee shall be entitled to have another employee or a shop floor union representative of his choice present during this explanation."

"Flowing from the pleadings and exhibit and submissions hereto the court finds the respondent has discharged their burden of proof and has given a valid reason for terminating the claimant and has also followed the required mandatory procedure."

The judge directed the parties to bear their own costs for the suit.

Wambua joined Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited as a receptionist on July 13, 2009, and exited on April 20, 2018, when she was serving as the PA of the CEO after rising through the ranks.