We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
You tell a wee fib, which escalates into a bigger lie – and, if you continue down this path, could later turn into a whopper…
Those of us who have been caught out can perhaps spare a thought for Mr Fekete who was employed as a Senior Analyst within Citibank and had seven years’ service with this company. He travelled to Amsterdam on a business trip and, for lunch, claimed £86.70 for two coffees and two sandwiches.
When he was asked about this, on his return to the UK, he responded that he had “skipped breakfast and only had one coffee in the morning”. For lunch, he maintained that he “had one sandwich and a coffee in the restaurant and took another coffee back to the office” with him and “had the second sandwich in the afternoon”. In response, he pointed out that he was “well within” his 100 Euros limit.
What Mr Fekete didn’t appreciate was that one of his colleagues had told senior management that he was taking his partner on the business trip. Furthermore, Citibank’s Expense Policy was clear that “Spousal travel and meals are not reimbursable”.
Citibank accepted his response about the duplicate coffees and sandwiches but had cause to query his previous two days’ expenses claims – when, again, Mr Fekete was in Amsterdam on a business trip.
Citibank asked him about his previous days’ expense claims which appeared to consist of two-meal dinners.
Mr Fekete’s response was fairly terse. “All my expenses are within the €100 daily allowance. Could you please outline what your concern is as I don’t think I have to justify my eating habits to this extent.” When asked if he had consumed both the pesto pasta and bolognaise meals himself, his response was “yes”.
Citibank referred the matter to their Ethics Office and, even when asked, weeks later, by an Investigator whether he had shared his meal with his partner and being assured by her that, she would understand that a mistake could have been made, Mr Fekete replied, “No”.
Mr Fekete was summarily dismissed; but not before admitting that the food and drink was consumed by him and his partner. Mr Fekete’s mitigation during the disciplinary hearing was that he had misunderstood the Expense Policy, he was having personal difficulties, specifically following the death of his grandmother and it was his understanding that he could claim up to €100.
Mr Fekete lodged a claim for unfair dismissal with the Employment Tribunal. His claim was unsuccessful. Not only did the Employment Judge find that procedure adopted was fair, the decision to dismiss fell within the reasonable band of responses.
The Employment Judge stated, “this case is not about the sums of money involved. This case is about the filing of the expense claim and the conduct of the employee thereafter. It is significant that the employee did not make a full and frank disclosure at the first opportunity and that he did not answer questions directly.”
If you believe that an employee is telling fibs and you want to take disciplinary action against them, rather than VENTI-ing (or letting trouble BREW), you must provide that employee with notice of the ESPRESSO allegations against them, the evidence relied upon to support the “charges” and give the employee sufficient time to respond, to adequately present their side of the story. Basically, don’t pro-CAFFEINE-ate – Give it your best SHOT. If in doubt, don’t FLAT WHITE out.
Had Mr Fekete admitted when he was first questioned about his CUP-ple of coffees and made reference to his mitigating factors, his employer might have said, AFFOGATO-‘bout it. As it stood, and unfortunately for Mr Fekete, it was not a case of better LATTEE than never. Instead, Citibank told him, See You Later, PERCOLATOR…
If you have any questions on this on any other area of Employment law, please get in touch with Blackadders Employment Team, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and across Scotland.