A woman has been awarded a total of Sh598,000 in compensation for sexual harassment and dismissal.
Mr Justice Onesmus Makau of the Industrial Court in Mombasa found the managing director of Milango Financial Services, Mr Johnson Kithendu, guilty of sexually harassing Ms Mercy Mbuchu, contrary to Section 6 of the Employment Act.
Ms Mbuchu had, through her lawyer, Jackson Muchiri, challenged her dismissal last year.
She told the court that one of the reasons she was dismissed was that she refused to give in to sexual advances by the managing director.
She said that between the end of 2012 and April 2013, the managing director invited her to his office for no good reason.
Ms Mbuchu further testified that Mr Kithendu hugged her several times. He invited her to his house for a weekend on April 13, 2013, but she declined.
Mr Kithendu later hosted her for lunch on Moi Avenue in Mombasa during which he promised “to take care of her as a woman.”
Ms Mbuchu said she rejected his advances and told him that she was a born-again Christian. After the lunch, the boss told her that he had been expecting her resignation — something, she said, that took her by surprise.
Another reason for her troubles with the boss was her refusal to buy company shares.
In her opinion, it was not wise to invest in the shares at a time when she had no money.
In addition Ms Mbuchu said she did not see it worthwhile to forfeit her leave in exchange for shares, as the other employees had done, because she was pursuing a master’s degree.
The court concluded that the MD indirectly requested Ms Mbuchu for sexual intercourse when he invited her to spend the weekend at his house.
“To make the matter worse, the managing director did not attend court to testify,” said the judge.
Justice Makau said that the lunch date and the promise that “Ms Mbuchu would be taken care of as a woman,” amounted to harassment.
“The persistent hugging, including at the office kitchen, was a behaviour of sexual nature, which was not only unwelcome to the claimant but which also had a detrimental effect on her employment, job performance and satisfaction,” said the judge.
The respondent did not reply to the suit.
The court concluded that the dismissal was unfair and in breach of the claimant’s employment contract and because it was not done after a fair hearing as provided for under Section 41 of the Employment Act.
“It was in breach because after punishing the claimant by a warning letter and a demotion after a disciplinary enquiry, the respondent was wrong to later dismiss her summarily without fresh hearing."
The court directed that she be paid Sh60,000 as one month’s salary in lieu of notice and Sh38,000 for the 19 days she worked in June.