Teacher fired over obscene photos wins caseMonday February 06 2023
A teacher at the Riara Group of Schools has won a court battle against the private institution in Nairobi, which fired him for emailing pornographic content to senior members of staff.
The Employment and Labour Relations court found that although the teacher Apollo Amanya was culpable of circulating obscene images the process of dismissing him was unfair.
The art teacher had been hired on June 10, 2019, and worked until March 18, 2021, when his contract was terminated for sharing nude pictures in breach of the school’s e-learning policy.
“The images circulated were, to say the least startling. The court shudders at the thought of such materials finding their way to the young learners within the institution. It is shocking that a teacher would find it appropriate to engage in the circulation of such materials, particularly in an institution of learning,” said Justice Bernard Manani.
“Such conduct cannot be countenanced by any right-thinking member of society including the court. Yet, in deciding the fate of the petitioner, the respondent was bound to hear him out fairly,” he added.
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The judge said though the school had a valid reason to terminate Mr Amanya’s contract of employment, the school failed to convince the court that it upheld the requirements of due process in terminating his job.
He awarded the teacher Sh110,000 being an amount equivalent to his salary for two months as compensation for wrongful termination “on account of failure to accord him a fair hearing notwithstanding his apparent transgressions”.
The reason for Mr Amanya’s termination was the alleged unsolicited circulation of pornographic materials within the school. The content was emailed twice to the official emails of the school staff community.
The school told the court that between February 24 and 25, 2021, the teacher sent unsolicited pornographic materials to several senior members of staff.
The pornographic materials emanated from his email address. The school stated that the sharing of pornographic content was in contravention of its e-learning guidelines which Mr Amanya was aware of.
Asked about it, the teacher said his email had been hacked and that he reported to the police immediately after he learned of the intrusion.
But despite changing the password, another set of images was circulated from the same email account on February 26, 2021.
“I have looked at the email images and indeed there is an email from the petitioner’s email address to the official email address of Michael Muya Gateru on February 26, 2021, at10.14 pm containing nude pictures,” said Justice Benard Manani.
Mr Amanya said the offensive images were transmitted through his email account from the ICT lab.
At the time, he said he was in class and someone other than him must have been behind circulation of the images.
The court noted that the teacher confirmed that when he visited the ICT lab in the company of the school’s deputy head teacher, he realised that his account was not secured.
This suggested that the account did not have a functional password.
Justice Manani observed that, unlike a situation where there is a hacker who has managed to get into one’s account despite it having a password, in this case, and as per the teacher’s own admission, the account was simply unsecured.
Mr AManya reported the intrusion into his account on March 19, 2021, a day after he had been taken through the school’s disciplinary process and terminated.
“This sequence of events tends to show that the report by the petitioner to the police may have been a tactical attempt to lay ground for the current petition. If he thought that it was wise to take up the matter with the police, why did he not do it earlier? Why did he have to wait until after he had been terminated from employment?,” asked Justice Manani.
Mr Amanya had claimed that during his employment, the school’s senior staff subjected him to alleged unexplained harassment.
For instance, he said that the management required him and other members of staff to repeat assignments without apparent reason.
He also accused the deputy head teacher of the school of allegedly using derogatory language against him, unlawfully recording proceedings of a meeting with him and forcing him to work overtime.
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The school denied the allegations. It stated that the school’s management noted that Mr Amanya was underperforming on his core mandate and had deviant behaviour.