The Appellant’s Submissions
4.It is submitted for the appellant that the learned magistrate erred in finding that the appellant’s witness, its Human Resource Business Partner, one Stephen Owuor, was biased against the respondent, premised on the fact that the issue of the alleged bias was not a matter in issue before her, and was not addressed by the parties and no evidence was led to prove such bias.
6.It is the appellant’s submission that the learned magistrate erred when she found that the respondent’s representation was not considered before the final verdict was made.
7.The appellant further submits that the respondent admitted at the disciplinary hearing that he did not seek approval for the transportation of the household goods on behalf of his brother-in-law, and which the trial court observed as much in the impugned judgment.
8.The appellant submits that an employer has no obligation to overlook an employee’s gross misconduct simply because the employee apologized. The appellant further submits that the respondent’s apology did not take away the breakdown of the employer-employee trust relationship, and that the apology did not mitigate the seriousness of the gross misconduct. The appellant had reliance in the holding of the court in Charles Mokua Nyamari v Tudor Health Care Limited  eKLR to support this proposition.
9.The appellant submits that having proved that there were valid reasons for termination of the respondent’s employment, and that procedural fairness was observed, the court erred in making the award of compensation.
10.The appellant further submits that the award of 12 month’s pay as compensation for unlawful termination, is inordinately high and excessive. The appellant relied in Robert Kimutai Rutto v Hotel Cathay Limited  eKLR where the Court of Appeal stated:-
11.The appellant further submits that while section 49(1) (c) of the Employment Act, 2007, grants courts the discretion to make an award for compensation, such discretion, should not be exercised whimsically. They sought to rely in Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital v James Kipkonga Kendagor  eKLR, where the Court of Appeal held that a judge who awards the statutory maximum of 12 months’ salary without justification has exceeded his powers.
12.It is the appellant’s submission that this court sets aside the trial court’s findings, and substitute it with a finding that the appellant had a valid reason for terminating the respondent’ employment.
The Respondent’s Submissions
13.It is the respondent’s submission that the trial court applied the law and facts correctly, and was sufficiently and reasonably within its discretion in arriving at the decision, and that the decision did not include non-issues to the case as alleged by the appellant.
14.It is the respondent’s submission that the decision adopted by the appellant was procedurally unfair, and not in compliance with section 41 of the Employment Act, hence his termination was ipso facto unfair, and the trial court did not in any way misguide itself, but fairly arrived at a just conclusion. The respondent had reliance in the case of Donald Odeke v Fidelity Security Limited  eKLR where the court held that it does not matter what offence the employee is accused of. If the employee is not heard the termination is ipso facto unfair.
15.It is further submitted that the respondent is entitled to terminal dues as per his statement of claim and the trial court was fair to find in his favour, having served the appellant for over 14 years.
16.The respondent submits that payment in lieu of notice is provided for under sections 35(1) and 36 of the Employment Act, and that no evidence was led to show that notice was given for the termination of the claimant/respondent.
17.It is submitted that the respondent was unfairly and unlawfully terminated, and ought to be compensated for the unfair termination caused by the appellant in accordance with section 49(1) (c) of the Employment Act, 2007.
18.It is the respondent’s prayer that this court upholds the decision of the trial court, in finding the maximum 12 months sufficient in light of the over 14 years of service, termination was not due to fault on his part, and finally for reason that the procedure employed to terminate him was pre-determined.
Analysis and Determination
19.I have considered the appellant’s record of appeal, the supplementary record of appeal and the submissions by both parties. The grounds of appeal are summarized as follows:a.That the learned magistrate erred in failing to hold that there were fair and valid reasons to terminate the respondent’s employmentb.That the learned magistrate did not observe the considerations of section 49 (4) of the Employment Act, and made an award of 12 months’ pay as compensation for unlawful termination, which is inordinately high and excessive in the circumstances of the case; andc.That the learned magistrate erred in awarding the respondent one month’s salary in lieu of notice.
21.On the question of whether or not the appellant had valid reasons to summarily dismiss the respondent, the letter of summary dismissal dated August 11, 2020, lists the reasons for dismissal as misuse of the company vehicle by transporting goods free of charge, abuse of power bestowed on the respondent in the management of the courier department at the Kisumu branch, and denying the company revenue by offering free transportation of goods.
22.The court record shows that the respondent admitted to the charge of using his company (appellant’s) motor vehicle to transport household goods for his brother-in-law, without receiving money for the transportation.
23.The court record further shows that the appellant’s disciplinary committee of five (5) members, was divided down the middle on the appropriate penalty for the respondent’s misconduct, with two members agreeing to a dismissal, and three holding the view that the respondent be retained and instead, given a final warning letter. The decision to summarily dismiss was reached nonetheless.
24.The appellant no doubt had reason to subject the respondent to disciplinary action owing to the fact that the company lost revenue on account of the respondent’s decision to ‘assist’ a needy relative.
25.In my view, an employer does not need a thousand reasons to terminate an employee (see Julius Kirimo Mwandoro v KCB Bank Kenya Limited  eKLR). One valid, fair and justified reason is sufficient to terminate or dismiss, subject only to adherence to procedural fairness.
26.The charges against the respondent however, is one the appellant could easily have sir-charged as courier charges applicable from one town to another are known to the appellant, and this having been suggested by the appellant’s disciplinary committee. I thus find that the penalty meted on the respondent was not proportionate to the offence committed.
27.I agree with the trial court that the summary dismissal handed down on the respondent, was too harsh and punitive considering his remorse, the circumstances under which the wrong was committed, his admission of the wrong, and the apology to the employer.
28.On the question of procedural fairness, the respondent was issued with a suspension letter, followed closely by an invitation to appear before the disciplinary committee, which he did, and further indicated that he did not wish to present a representative. In Postal Corporation of Kenya v Andrew K Tanui  eKLR, the Court of Appeal stated as follows in respect of fair hearing: -
30.In my view, the court record is proof that the appellant adhered to the tenets of fair hearing in their handling of the respondent’s case. I thus find and hold that the appellant’s decision was procedurally fair.
31.Concerning the award of 12 months’ salary as compensation for the unfair termination, the appellant asserts that the respondent was dismissed for valid and fair reasons, and thus the award by the trial court should be set aside.
32.This court has found the penalty meted on the respondent punitive, and which thus entitles him to an award of compensation. In Kenya Ports Authority v Festus Kipkorir Kiprotich  eKLR the court held that the measures of compensation should be guided by the statutory capping at the time of termination.
33.The Court of Appeal has now settled that courts must justify the awards they make by providing reasons for the award. In Kenya Broadcasting Corporation v Geoffrey Wakio  eKLR the court pointed out that an award of the maximum of 12 months pay, must be based on sound judicial principles, and that the trial Judge must justify or explain why a claimant is entitled to the maximum award.
35.The respondent was charged with misuse of a company vehicle by transporting goods without charging courier charges, abuse of power bestowed on him in the management of the appellant’s courier department at the Kisumu branch, and denying the company revenue by offering free transportation of goods. The evidence before court is that he admitted to the charge of misusing of the company vehicle by transporting goods free of charge. This goes to confirm that the Respondent no doubt largely contributed to his dismissal.
36.In the circumstances, I find the award by the trial court excessive and inordinately high. Further, considering the respondent’s long service (14 years) and his contribution to the dismissal, I set aside the award of 12 months’ salary and substitute therewith an award for six (6) months’ salary equivalent as compensation for the unfair dismissal.
37.On the award of one month’s salary in lieu of dismissal notice, the letter of August 11, 2020, dismissing the respondent stated thus:
38.The letter referred to herein above took effect immediately. No notice was thus issued to the respondent upon dismissal, and the payments that were to be processed were according to the letter, in relation only to days worked up to August 11, 2020, leave earned and not taken up to August 11, 2020, and house allowance.
39.The failure to issue notice or pay in lieu of the notice, no doubt entitles the respondent to the award of one-month salary in lieu of termination notice, which is the notice period agreed upon under clause 5 of the respondent’s contract of service with the appellant.
40.The award of pay in lieu of notice is upheld.
41.In whole, the court makes orders as follows: -i.That the trial court’s award of 12 months’ salary as compensation for unfair and unlawful dismissal is set aside, and substituted therewith six (6) months’ salary as compensation for unfair and unlawful termination at KShs 328,946.58/-ii.The award of one month’s salary in lieu of termination notice is upheld.iii.The appeal having partially succeeded, I order that each party bears their own costs of the appealiv.The award of costs and interest by the trial court was not challenged, and is thus left undisturbed.