Mount Kenya University’s Court Appeal Against Former Employee Dismissed

By The Weekly Vision

Mount Kenya University has suffered a devastating blow after Court of Appeal Judges K. Musinga, K.I Laibuta and Ng’enye Macharia dismissed an appeal the university had filed challenging a Ksh. 4m award to a former employee whose services were terminated unlawfully. In A Civil Application E115 Of 2023 against Dr Catherine Wangeci, the judges in a ruling dated 12th May 2023 dismissed the appeal which reads as follows: “Given the foregoing, we find that the applicant’s motion fails and is hereby dismissed with costs to the respondent”.

Dr Catherine Wangeci Thuita had sued the Mt Kenya University at the Employment and Labour Relations Court at Nairobi in ELRC Cause No E6519 of 2020 seeking, inter alia: a declaration that the applicant had breached her legitimate expectations and constitutional right to fair labour practices; compensation for breach of her contract of employment; reinstatement; gratuity; special damages; costs and interest.

Dr Catherine applied for and obtained ex parte judgment on December 16, 2021, for Ksh. 4,283,000, whereupon MKU applied to set aside the ex parte judgment vide its Notice of Motion dated January 13, 2022. By its ruling dated May 19, 2022, the ELRC (A N Mwaure, J) dismissed the applicant’s Motion. In her view, the applicant had not given reasonable grounds to justify setting aside the court’s judgment delivered on December 16, 2021.

Dissatisfied with the impugned ruling, MKU moved to this Court on appeal on 10 grounds, all of which essentially fault the learned Judge for failing to find that the respondent had not served the applicant with the pleadings in her claim in the ELRC. In supporting the appeal, MKU’s Human Resource Officer Janet Kajwang prayed for the decretal sum of Ksh. Ksh. 4,238,000 is colossal and payment to Dr Catherine would severely compromise its cash flow and operations.

But Dr. Catherine in a quick rejoinder claimed that the appeal is intended to frustrate her to submission and deny her the fruits of her judgment; that the notice of appeal was served outside the stipulated period of seven (7) days after filing; that she has suffered tremendous hardship and substantial loss; and that the application has no merit. 

The judges noted, “The proceedings in ELRC Cause No E6519 of 2020 came to an end upon entry of ex parte judgment and issuance of a decree leaving nothing to stay other than execution, which the applicant has not sought stay herein”. Dr Catherine was employed by MKU as a Senior Lecturer for three years from 1st January 2016 with a starting salary of Ksh. 190,000 but increased to Ksh.350,000. 

On 8th February 2019, her contract was renewed for 5 years from 1st January 2019. The same terms of the contract were implied. She was allocated further duties as a postgraduate coordinator for the years 2018 to 2019 at an allowance of Ksh. 20,000 per month.

On the 6th of February 2020, the respondent unlawfully and without sufficient reason terminated her employment with effect from 10th February, 2020. A ruling was made on 16th December 2021 by Judge Anna Mwaure which reads “In conclusion the Claimant is awarded a total of Ksh. 2,003,000 being special damages and Sh2,280,000 for general damages”.

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