The Employment and Labour Relations Court has ruled that it is against the law for employers to demand employees to attend work on their worship day.
Justice Bernard Manani, in a landmark ruling highlighting workers’ rights, ruled that forcing employees to choose between work and religious observance is an infringement on the employees’ freedom to worship and a form of discrimination.
Justice Manani ruled that Scoline Anyango should be awarded 2.5 million shillings by a city hospital as compensation for her unfair dismissal.
The judge said that while Anyango’s involvement at a hospital budget meeting was vital, so was her right to worship, and a middle ground should have been found.
Justice Manani questioned why the hospital couldn’t have waited to hold the meeting until all of the managers were available.
He mentioned that Anyango was required by her employment contract to work on one Saturday a month, but he highlighted that the hospital had a responsibility to respect and defend her freedom of religion without unfairly discriminating against her.
The judge found that Anyango was put in an awkward position as a result of the hospital’s arrangement and ruled that it was a “unnecessary hardship” due to her religious convictions.
He blasted the hospital for pressuring Anyango to violate her Sabbath adherence, saying that it was clear from the evidence that she had encountered discrimination at work because of her religion.
Anyango, a devout member of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith worked as a manager at the facility until her dismissal on April 5, 2018.
She claimed that she and her boss had a falling out when a budget meeting was scheduled for her Sabbath, despite the fact that her boss was aware that Saturdays were her days off.
Anyango testified further that the hospital had previously allowed her to work just from Monday through Friday in order to accommodate her religious observance.
Unlike her colleagues, who can attend church whenever they choose on Sundays, Anyango has to balance her commitment to her faith with the demands of her employment.
The hospital responded by saying the freedom of religion is not absolute and that despite the fact that they had allowed Anyango to worship on three separate Saturdays before, she was not entitled to preferential treatment since it would be unfair to the other workers.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Manani stated that the hospital’s response showed a lack of respect for Anyango’s right to religion. He underlined that she might have complied with their directives simply by delegating her responsibilities.