Citibank has successfully defended an unfair dismissal claim by an employee who was dismissed for claiming expenses for sandwiches and coffee for his partner.
The Claimant brought his unfair dismissal claim against the bank after he was dismissed for gross misconduct. He had worked at the bank for 7 years prior to his dismissal, most recently as a Senior Analyst.
On a work trip to Amsterdam in July last year, he filed an expenses claim for food and drink within the bank’s daily food allowance (£86.70 a day).
When he was questioned, he initially and repeatedly said he had consumed all of the food himself, but later in the investigation process, he admitted he had shared meals with his partner (and also claimed he was having difficulties at home with the recent death of his grandmother and being on medication following a recent period of sickness absence).
He was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The tribunal found in favour of Citibank, making the comment that the case “is not about the sums of money involved”, but rather about the “conduct of the claimant thereafter” (namely, the fact that he did not own up at the earliest opportunity).
Citibank’s Code of Conduct required staff to:
- Conduct business in a manner that is fair, transparent, prudent, and dependable. This includes a commitment to honesty in our dealings and communications with our clients, suppliers, competitors, and each other.
- Fully cooperate with any investigation into alleged violations of laws, regulations, rules, or breaches of policy, standard, procedure, or this Code and be truthful and forthcoming during such investigations.
- Not make false statements to internal or external auditors, investigators, legal counsel, Citi representatives, regulators, or other governmental entities.
Citibank’s Expenses Policy was clear that “Spousal travel and meals are not reimbursable”.
Their Disciplinary Policy also contained a provision that “Falsification and irregular practice involving cash, vouchers, records, the use of business credit, corporate or debit cards for non-business related expenses, returns or accounts, including false claims for expense reimbursement, and additional allowances such as overtime and shift premiums” could amount to gross misconduct.
For a dismissal to be “fair”, there must be a potentially fair reason for the dismissal (misconduct being one of the potentially fair reasons), a fair process must be followed and it must be “reasonable in all the circumstances” to dismiss in that particular situation.
It was held that the bank had followed a fair process, but given the Claimant’s previous 7 years’ clean service, it could have been considered that dismissing would not be “reasonable in all of the circumstances”. In this case, the Claimant’s mitigating factors were not considered to be sufficient to explain his dishonesty on multiple occasions. His downfall seems to have been his failure to ‘own up’ sooner than he did.
Cases like this one are decided on their facts, therefore it is always sensible to take advice before dismissing an employee. If you need advice regarding dismissals, please get in touch with a member of our Employment team who would be happy to help.