BessyKathambi, A former Safaricom employee demanding Sh28 million from mobile phone company as compensation


30 Apr 2015 | by BY PAUL WEEKS
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BessyKathambi, A former Safaricom employee demanding Sh28 million from mobile phone company as compensation

A former Safaricom employee has sued the mobile phone company for wrongful termination and is demanding Sh28 million as compensation, in a suit that could redefine work injury claims in the country.BessyKathambi, who was sacked in October 2012, says that her employer terminated her contract because she had lost her voice in her line of duty as a customer care representative......

A former Safaricom employee has sued the mobile phone company for wrongful termination and is demanding Sh28 million as compensation, in a suit that could redefine work injury claims in the country.BessyKathambi, who was sacked in October 2012, says that her employer terminated her contract because she had lost her voice in her line of duty as a customer care representative.

Doctors diagnosed her condition as dysphonia, a medical term for a rare condition where the patient is unable to project clear sound, whose cause was cited as excessive use of the voice box muscles.She claims in her petition to court that Safaricom was unfair is sending her home after she suffered an injury to her voice box due after putting it under strain in her job which involves extensive talking.“I lost my voice in June 2010 and the journey through this ordeal has been disheartening especially with the treatment given,” said MsKathambi, 30, in an email conversation.She expected the firm to continue supporting her treatment by keeping her as an employee, perhaps in a position that does not require the use of voice and does not involve interacting with customers directly.

Her plea is for the court to find her former employer Safaricom to have been responsible for the loss of her voice considering that she sustained the ‘injury’ in the course of executing her daily duties. As a customer care representative, her job entails attending to needs of the firm’s subscribers for an eight-hour shift in a five-day week.When she suffered her condition, she claims that Safaricom offered to retire her on medical grounds, a proposal that would have ignored the connection between the injury and her work. Had she retired, her employer would have been absolved from any responsibility in her condition, according to her petition.The compensation she is demanding includes a month’s pay in lieu of notice of her termination equal to Sh76,662, plus the foregone income over the rest of her working life calculated at the current salary.

 MsKathambi’s case presents a unique scenario that human resource professionals would be closely following as the court makes a directive on whether her condition would be classified as a work related injury. The court would also determine Safaricom’s direct responsibility in the loss of MsKathambi’s voice, and whether she had a claim to compensation from her past employer. Safaricom said that it would not comment on the matter as it would be sub-judicial, given that the suit had been filed in court. The drama began in June 2010 when MsKathambi reported to her supervisor that she was unwell as she could not talk any longer, midway through an ordinary working day. She sought permission to visit a doctor which was granted. “I have been working since morning with a lot of strain on my voice and now it has disappeared. I have gone to seek medical attention. I will update when done,” she notified her boss via email. Several ENT (ear, nose and throat) professionals she saw diagnosed her with dysphonia and put her on treatment, which involved sessions of voice therapy. Dysphonis is an impairment of the voice. It sysmptomsare  difficulty in speaking and  hoarseness caused by a virus is a common form of dysphonia.

 After she was unable to fully recover, she was transferred to the SMS department due to her condition until October last year, when her bosses allegedly informed her of the company’s decision to retire her on medical grounds. For months before the date, she claims, her employer had taken her off the group medical insurance forcing her to meet the cost of the therapy even though she still was an employee.

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