Chemical Workers Union Ordered To Compensate Former Employee In Forced Retirement Case

The Kenya Chemical Workers Union management has been faulted for frustrating their staff while pretending to push for workers’ rights elsewhere in the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Kisumu.  

A former employee of the union, Caleb Otieno Ouko went to court to file a claim on March 14, 2022, seeking a declaration that his retirement and eventual termination of service was not within the law and hence unlawful. The case was first heard on February 13, 2023, when Ouko testified in support of his case, and later on March 21, 2023, Ms Grace Wairimu Munyi also testified in support of his claim.

According to his affidavit, Ouko was employed by the Kenya Chemical Workers Union as the area secretary (Coast region) on September 21, 1991, where he served until December 20, 2012, when he was transferred to Nyanza and Western Region in a similar position effective January 7, 2013. He claimed that he served the Kenya Chemical Workers Union diligently and with loyalty for over thirty (30) years, without any disciplinary or integrity issues. However, the Kenya Chemical Workers Union management summoned him on January 31, 2022, to a meeting and informed him of his immediate retirement. 

A ruling dated July 27, 2027, by Judge Christine Buuri, reads in part “The Court has found the manner in which the claimant was retired to be unfair termination, and which entitles the claimant to compensation per Sections 49 and 50 of the Employment Act”. The judge awarded Mr Ouko payment of one month’s salary in lieu of notice at Ksh. 88,000, four months’ salary as compensation for the unfair termination at Ksh. 352,000, and service gratuity at Ksh. 2,640,000.

It is Ouko’s case that he was discriminated against for having been retired when other employees his age were still in service. He further contends that the actions of the Kenya Chemical Workers Union to abruptly retire him and fail to pay him his lawfully earned benefits subjected him to torture and mental anguish. Ouko’s further submission claimed that he was unfairly and unlawfully targeted by virtue of his age and forced into an abrupt retirement and that the Kenya Chemical Workers Union was wrong in basing their case on the fact that he had attained the age of 60 years when it did not have a definite retirement age.

The Kenya Chemical Workers Union, in a quick rejoinder, claimed that Ouko continued working past the age of sixty years, and once he became ineffective and slow at work due to old age. Mr. Ouko was summoned to the Kenya Chemical Workers Union head office on January 31, 2022, and informed verbally that he would be retired effective February 1, 2022, and that he was aged 67 years at the time he was retired and had worked beyond the retirement age of 60 years.

The judge noted that Ouko’s contract carried an express provision entitling him to a service gratuity, with the only limitation being where he is retired on the basis of gross misconduct. Further, there was no misconduct associated with Ouko’s retirement, and he is thus entitled to the payment of a service gratuity.