Hospital to Pay Ksh3.5 Million to Employee it Fired for Skipping Work to Attend Church

A photo of Kenyans attending a church service in Nairobi
A photo of Kenyans attending a church service in Nairobi
Elvis Ogina

The Employment and Labour Relations Court awarded Ksh3.5 million to an employee who was wrongfully terminated by a local hospital for skipping a meeting to attend church.

According to court documents dated June 29, the woman was terminated in 2018 after being instructed to take compulsory leave using her accrued 40 days of leave.

According to the document, the plaintiff, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, was unable to attend a significant meeting that took place on a Saturday. Saturday is a sabbath day for Seventh-Day Adventists globally.

The plaintiff told the court that the company sent her an email listing her absences. She added that prior to the warning, she had entered into an agreement with the company to allow her not to work on Saturday and compensate for that on Sunday due to her faith. 

A photo of Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi
A photo of Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi
The Judiciary

"It is clear however that Sunday was left undisturbed for the other employees who consider it as their worship day," read part of the court documents.

The employee further explained that she had made arrangements with other staff members to ensure she was represented in the meeting.

However, the hospital refuted that she was fired for attending church. The hospital added that it was wrong for her to skip work without permission which it said forced them to take the hard decision.

The court, however, ruled the employee being a member of the Seventh Day Adventist was entitled to freedom of religion. 

Justice B.O.M Manani, presiding over the case, referred to Article 32 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of worship for all Kenyans while allowing them to have beliefs and opinions.

"A person shall not be compelled to act or engage in any act that is contrary to the person's belief or religion," reads part of the article.

Breakdown of Compensation

The judge ruled that since the employee was earning Ksh214,480 per month, the company should award her three months' salary in line with her contract.

Additionally, for the 40 days she was sent on compulsory leave, the judge ruled that the plaintiff should get paid for the accrued leave days. This amounted to Ksh285,973 but the employee only asked for Ksh278,824.

"The claimant has also claimed compensation for unfair termination. As I have observed in the preceding parts of this decision, it is clear to me that the Respondent not only terminated the claimant’s employment without valid reason but also violated the Claimant’s freedom from discrimination and freedom of religion," read part of the court documents.

Following the unfair compensation, the judge directed the hospital to award the employee Ksh2.6 million equivalent to 12 months' salary.

According to the judge, there was no legitimate reason to fire the employee in such a harsh manner.

The amount was subject to court rates and applicable statutory deductions.

A photo of the Court of Appeal Bench.
A photo of the Court Bench
The Judiciary of Kenya
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