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Scrolling news:

Jenin, W Bank: Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians, incl 2 children, as it sieges refugee camp

160 corpses retrieved from under rubble in Gaza Strip: Media Office

Palestine: 9 Palestinians killed by Israeli army in West Bank since Sat: 240 total killed since Oct 7

Spain: Condemning attacks on Gaza is about humanity, not ideology: Spanish premier

Palestine: Israeli army kills 5 Palestinians on Sat in West Bank

WHO may have unwittingly, knowingly facilitated Israel’s kidnapping of medical staff from Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza: Rights group

Gaza: 2 mothers killed every hour, 7 women every 2 hours in Gaza: UN

Gaza: 120 Palestinians killed in Israeli indiscriminate attacks in Gaza

Gaza: 12 killed as Israeli forces shell Indonesian Hospital in Gaza

Palestine: 13 Palestinians killed in 4 days in West Bank

Russia, US, UK abstain from UN Sec Council vote on ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Gaza

Gaza: Israeli army storms Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

Gaza: Israeli airstrikes level 12 dwellings in Jabalia, killing 31 Palestinians

WHO chief says Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital no longer functioning as medical facility

Gaza: 100 bodies to be buried in mass grave in Al-Shifa Hospital due to continuous Israeli airstrikes

Gaza: 100 bodies to be buried in mass grave in Al-Shifa Hospital due to continuous Israeli airstrikes

Gaza: Israel airstrikes target four Gaza hospitals, killing many

Occupied West Bank: 178 Palestinians killed, 2,280 arrested

Gaza: 900,000 civilians remain in besieged Gaza City

Gaza: Israel air strikes killed more Palestinian civilians in a month than Russia killed Ukrainian civilians in 20 months

Legal corner: Banker dismissed for lying about his expenses claim

27th Oct 2023
Legal corner: Banker dismissed for lying about his expenses claim

When considering allegations of misconduct, employers need to be clear about what specifically the employee has done that is blameworthy, ensure that the employee is fully aware that such actions would be considered blameworthy, and then assess the severity of those actions to determine an appropriate sanction.

To decide whether an employee has or has not done the act alleged, it must ensure that a reasonable investigation has been carried out and that it has reasonable grounds for coming to the conclusions reached. When assessing an appropriate sanction, an employer must consider any mitigating circumstances put forward by the employee and assess the impact of those on the alleged misconduct.

These matters were considered in the recent case of Szabolcs Fekete v. Citibank N.A. (Case No. 3200775/2023). Mr. Fekete had been employed for seven years, most recently as a senior analyst involved in financial crime. In July 2022, Mr Fekete travelled to Amsterdam on a business trip.

He travelled with his partner. Upon his return, he submitted his expenses claim, which included a lunch claim for two sandwiches, two coffees, and another drink, and a dinner claim for two meals. Citibank permitted employees to claim up to €100 per day for subsistence, but its policy also made clear that spousal travel and meals were not reimbursable.

Mr Fekete’s expense claim was initially rejected on the basis that it appeared that the meals were for two people rather than one.

When he was advised of this, he stated in an email that he was on a business trip by himself and that he had consumed all the food listed, providing a detailed explanation of how and when he had consumed the food claimed. He was given a further opportunity to add any other attendees for whom the food had been claimed but again reiterated that these were all his expenses, and he had no one to add to them.

As a result of its concerns that Mr Fekete was claiming meals that he had not consumed, Citibank initiated an investigation, and Mr Fekete was interviewed.

When pressed, he admitted that his partner had travelled with him but denied that his partner had eaten a meal with him.

He repeated his assertion that all the meals claimed had been consumed by him, despite most of the receipts seeming to relate to two people eating rather than one. After his interview, he was asked to consider his receipts again, at which point he admitted that some of the items claimed had in fact been consumed by his partner.

A disciplinary hearing was convened to consider two matters: submitting an expenses claim indicating that it only related to him when this was not the case, and then dishonestly confirming, when asked, that all the food and drink claimed had been consumed by him alone.

In mitigation, Mr Fekete stated that he thought that he could claim €100 per day and had misunderstood the expenses policy; that at the time of the submission and his statements thereafter, he had been grieving for his grandmother and had in fact been on medical leave and on strong medication. However, the decision was taken to dismiss him, and that decision was upheld on appeal.

Mr Fekete brought his claim to the employment tribunal, which analysed each step of the process undertaken by Citibank; while it was not considered to be ‘perfect’, it was accepted that it was reasonable.

In terms of the sanction, the tribunal accepted that Mr Fekete was employed in a position of trust and that although he may have initially misunderstood the ambit of the expenses policy, he was asked direct questions about whether he had consumed all the items claimed for and confirmed that he had.

He repeated those assertions more than once before admitting that they were not, in fact, true. It was reasonable for his employer to focus on Mr Fekete’s conduct, regardless of the fact that the sums in issue were small. Mr Fekete’s claim of unfair dismissal failed.

This case highlights the importance of each of the steps mentioned at the outset: an employer needs to follow a clear and detailed process and come to conclusions that it can justify based on the evidence. Each case will turn on its own facts, but an employer needs to ensure that it has clearly set out what it is about the facts that justify its decision. The lessons for employees are obvious!

Honesty and integrity are essential components of any employment relationship; any actions or inactions of an employee that damage that relationship will inevitably be subject to scrutiny and quite possibly sanction.

Safia Tharoo,
Barrister, 42BR Barristers

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