Equity sacks officer over ties with rogue ex-staffer

Equity Bank

Equity Bank branch on Muindi Mbingu Street in Nairobi on April 1, 2021.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A judge has endorsed a decision by Equity Bank to sack a senior officer over links with an ex-employee earlier dismissed for fraud, a decision likely to shape the ties between employees and their former colleagues.

Ms Doreen Mutitu was summarily dismissed by Equity on March 10, 2015 a week after her suspension for engaging with a former employee, Mr Sam Ongiri who had been sacked over fraud allegations.

Ms Mutitu was aggrieved by the lender’s decision and sued for wrongful dismissal.

In its defence, Equity said that around January 2015 it detected suspicious communication between Ms Mutitu and Mr Ongiri who had been dismissed in 2009 for involvement in fraud and tampering with customer information.

Although Ms Mutitu initially denied the links, she later admitted to knowing him and meeting him physically. She also owned up to having exchanged numerous text messages with Mr Ongiri and even had tele-conversation with him, as suspected by the bank.

Customer information

She was then dismissed for among other charges illegally supplying customer information to third parties—sparking a legal fight.

Labour Relations Court Judge James Rika when ruling on the tussle said that although the lender failed to follow due process, the employee was validly dismissed.

He said her conduct of engaging with a former employee, who was sacked over alleged fraud, indicated a breach of trust and confidentiality, which were the cornerstone of her contract with the bank.

"The Claimant (Ms Mutitu) worked for the Respondent (Equity Bank) for close to seven years. Her record was blotted through her engagement with a fraudster. She contributed in large, to the decision made by the Respondent to end the relationship," said the judge.

Ms Mutitu was employed by Equity on July 3, 2008, as a clerk and by the time she left employment after being dismissed on March 10, 2015, she was the Senior Relationship Officer- Account Opening.

Justice Rika faulted Ms Mutitu for her ties with Mr Ongiri.

Sensitive docket

"The Respondent is a Bank, with the duty to protect its customers’ accounts. Customers base their trust in the bank, to protect their accounts. The Claimant was in a very sensitive docket, a position of confidentiality, where customers supplied her their personal details, in opening accounts. Why would she renew her acquaintance with the former employee in 2014, while she was aware he was an ex-Employee, blacklisted by the Respondent over fraud?" The judge asked.

However, the court found that the termination procedure was flawed, and to that extent the, termination was unfair. The court allowed her request for compensation for unfair irregular, at the equivalent of three months’ salary, amounting to Sh201,000.

This is because there was no disciplinary hearing as contemplated by the Employment Act.

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