Catholic University employee to get Sh3.3m for unfair demotion


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The Catholic University of Eastern Africa has been ordered to compensate Dr Lydia Mbuthia Sh3.3 million for unfair labour practice.

Justice James Rika agreed with the applicant's case that the act of the university redeploying her to the position of a lecturer constituted constructive dismissal and unfair labour practice.

He went on to explain that unfair labour practice meant any unfair act or omission that arises between an employer and an employee.

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“The claimant prays for damages for constructive dismissal and unfair labour practice. The Court agrees that she suffered constructive dismissal and unfair labour practice. The court grants her damages for constructive dismissal and unfair labour practice, an equivalent of 15 months’ salary, at Sh 3,357,060,” reads part of the Employment and Labour Relations Court ruling.

Dr Lydiah had been employed as a tutorial fellow at the University in August 2006 and rose the ranks to the position of a lecturer.

Following an advertisement for the position of Director of University Advancement, Dr Lydiah applied and she was duly employed in November 2014 for six months.

However, in December 2014, the university re-advertised the position. Dr Lydiah wrote a protest letter to the university stating that she was still on contract for the same role.

Despite the protests in December 2015, she got a letter deploying her back to the position of a lecturer at the Faculty of Commerce and her salary and benefits were downgraded from that of the position of Director.

Her monthly gross salary as a lecturer was Sh132,000. As a director, it was Sh223,000. She told the court that the incident subjected her to ridicule and mental anguish. She sought compensation of Sh6.7 million.

The Catholic University on the other end told the court that it appointed Dr Lydiah as Director of University Advancement for six months.

The appointment was subject to being confirmed on the lapse of six months with approval from the university council.

The university added that the position of director became redundant forcing the institution to revert Dr Lydiah to the position of a lecturer.

It stated that the reversion to the position of a lecturer did not amount to demotion.

The court stated that a position does not simply become redundant because an employer says so. Instead, there must be valid proof of redundancy and the due process of the law must be followed.

“The claimant needed to be shown proof of a redundancy situation, and be accorded the benefit of the process under Section 40 of the Employment Act.”

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In explaining what constituted unfair labour practice, the court said: “Inexplicable demotion, attempted extension of the probationary period after confirmation, and a colourable redundancy exercise targeted at an employee, all fit within the conduct of an employer, that is deemed to amount to unfair labour practice.”

The court proceeded to grant her compensation of Sh3,357,060 which was equivalent to 15 months’ salary.

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