Nation Media Group (NMG) has moved to court seeking to quash a ruling by the Employment and Labour Relations Court that awarded former Investigations Editor Andrew Teyie Ksh 4,266,390 as compensation for unfair termination of his services.
Teyie had moved to court after NMG declared his position redundant alongside others.
He averred that the media house’s explanation that his job was declared redundant following a reorganisation of the newsroom was not true, saying instead he was edged out for writing investigative stories on corruption in government, which did not go well with Editor-in-Chief Tom Mshindi.
In his ruling, Judge J.N Abuodha said NMG failed to explain why it never gave Teyie a one-month of notice in accordance with Section 40 of the Employment Act and instead offered to pay him in lieu of notice. The ministry of Labour was also not notified.
“The respondent did not provide any reason why this mandatory requirement of the statute was not met. This, therefore, lends some measure of credence to the allegations by the claimant that his separation from employment may have been as a result of the discomfort some of the stories he was following was causing,” Justice Abuodha held in his May 24, 2019 ruling.
“In conclusion, the court finds that the termination of the claimant’s service was unfair. The court therefore awards him ten months salary as compensation for unfair termination of service being Kshs 4,266,390/=. This award shall be subject to taxes and statutory deductions but shall attract interest at court terms from the date of judgement until full payment,” he added.
Teyie, who had sought Ksh 100 million, was also given costs of the suit. However, NMG on May 31 filed an urgent appeal against the ruling and the matter is set for hearing on June 13.
During the hearing of the case, NMG had defended its decision, stating that redundancy was a legitimate ground for terminating a contract of employment provided there was a valid and fair reason based on operational requirements of the employer.
However, Justice Abuodha ruled that giving a notice of not less than one month, in the case of a non-unionised employee, was mandatory so as to give him opportunity to negotiate for redeployment with the employer and also to prepare him for a period without employment.
Teyie, through his lawyer Paul Elkington, had submitted to the court that he was hired to source and write exclusive stories as well as mentoring and coaching young investigative journalists.
Some of the mega-corruption stories he wrote touched on KRA, NYS and Eurobond, which did not go down well with his superiors especially Mshindi who asked him to go slow on sensitive stories such as NYS and Eurobond issue.
He said matters came to a head in March 4, 2015 when Mshindi in the presence of David Kiambi, the Human Resources Director, summoned him to his office and told him his pension had been scrapped since NMG did not have money.
Teyie added that his attempts to request that he be redeployed were met with a strong response that there was no finance to maintain his position. He was consequently handed a letter terminating his service.
On December 2, 2015, Mshindi had dispatched an email to his “troops” telling them to stop further reporting on the Eurobond saga since clarification had been made on how the money was used and was of the view that the story was not progressing.
Even as NMG appeals the court award, Teyie has also moved to court seeking Ksh 85,756, 367.95 as compensation for economic loss and hardships, unreasonably, unconstitutionally and illegally visited upon him by NMG.
Teyie had joined NMG on June 1, 2013 after being headhunted from the Standard on a monthly salary of Ksh 294,400 and a car allowance of Ksh 105,600.
He says things changed when there was a change of guard at NMG in 2015.
Mugumo Munene, who was sacked as News Editor on the same day as Teyie, told the court that he had been informed by Managing Editor, Weekend Editions Eric Obino that there was a list of six journalists that His Highness the Aga Khan wanted sacked as part of a compromise with the government over constant negative reportage by NMG outlets.
NMG, however, denies violating Teyie’s constitutional rights and has instead made a counterclaim of over Ksh 2 million from him.
“My client has instructed me to do a cross appeal,” says lawyer Elkington.
Teyie avers that the issue regarding his car should be handled in a civil court.