The Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi has ruled that it is illegal for an employer to force an employee to work on his or her worship day.
This is in a case where Scoline Anyango Ojung’a moved to court to sue her employer Nairobi Women Hospital for terminating her services.
She told the court that she is a practicing Seventh Day Adventist and therefore Saturdays are considered as worship days for her faith.
“Consequently, Seventh Day Adventists do not work on this day. In order to observe this practice, the Claimant states that she asked the Respondent to excuse her from work on Saturdays,” read the judgement.
Ms. Ojung’a told the court that she entered into an agreement with her employer allowing her to work the first Saturday of every month then commit the remaining Saturdays in the month to her worship.
“To compensate for the Saturdays that she was going to be off duty in any given month, the Claimant indicated her availability to work on Sundays since the institution works seven days a week,” read the court papers.
On February 23, 2018, she asked to be excused from a meeting set for February 24, 2018 as the event coincided with her worship day and she had scheduled church activities on the same day.
She also sent a text message to a member of her employer’s management team on the subject, but her request to be excused from the meeting was declined.
Ms. Ojung’a hence argued that the refusal to allow her to attend to her worship day was in violation of her freedom of religion.
The court further noted that the fact that the Ms. Ojung’a’s employer terminated her employment for failure to attend the meeting that coincided with her prayer day was unfair.
“I have observed in the preceding parts of this decision, it is clear to me that the Respondent not only terminated the Claimant’s employment without valid reason but also violated the Claimant’s freedom from discrimination and freedom of religion,” the court ruled.