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Court awards damages to female pastor sacked for ‘having pre-marital sex’

A 30-year-old female pastor of the Methodist Church of Kenya has won damages after she was sacked for allegedly engaging in premarital sex.

The Labour Court on Monday awarded the pastor Sh214,000 after a finding that her dismissal from pastoral duties was unlawful and discriminative.

In her court papers, the evangelist, whose name we have concealed, said she was sacked because she got pregnant outside marriage.

She was an evangelist under Kaaga synod from October 2016 till November 22, 2017 when she was dismissed on a Sunday from the church’s ministerial duties.

MONTHLY SALARY

Earning a monthly salary of Sh19,000, the pastor was serving two churches; Nyeri Methodist and Suguroi-Ngobit church.

The church failed to enter appearance in the case despite service, forcing the court to hear the pastor’s claims as undefended.

The pastor told Justice Nzioki Makau of the Labour Court in Nyeri that the reason for termination of her employment was pregnancy before wedding, which was against moral standards of the church.

She was sacked through a letter dated November 1, 2017 and signed by Reverend Wilson Njagi, for the Synod Bishop.

The letter indicated that she failed to behave as an evangelist.

“As noted, you did a church wedding on May 27, 2017 and you gave birth in the month on October the same year. That is five months instead of expected nine months,” the dismissal letter read in part.

It added: “After investigations, it was noted the pregnancy had gone full cycle of nine months, showing you involved yourself in sex before marriage far much before your wedding, thus compromising the moral standards of the church which are supposed to uphold and lead as an example to those you were preaching to as an evangelist, indicating the claimant was involved in sex before marriage.”

MORAL STANDARDS

After consultation with the relevant committee, the church continued, it was decided that her duties and payment had to be terminated to maintain the moral standards of the church.

The claimant did not deny engaging in premarital sex and did not deny the fact her pregnancy and the birth of her first born child.

But she took issue with the dismissal claiming it was contrary to the church standing orders and agenda.

She said according to the church regulations, pregnancy of single female employees should itself not involve dismissal.

“Normal maternity leave should be granted and Christian pastoral counselling offered to both parties involved by the head of the institution. However, in order to assist the said female employee, there must be total honesty and disclosure of the matters at hand,” she told the court.

The judge said the dismissal was harsh in the circumstances since she was neither given the pastoral counselling nor maternity leave.

CANONS OF CHURCH

The court further noted that she was not afforded the safeguard that the canons of the church made available for those who may “slip and fall” like she did.

She wanted a compensation of Sh409,000 for unfair termination, unpaid house allowances, salary in lieu of notice, three months of unpaid maternity leave, 21 days annual leave, unpaid salary for November 2017 and unremitted NSSF dues for 15 months.

But the judge found that the non-payment of house allowance was not erroneous since the church had provided her with a house.

She also failed to prove that the NSSF deductions were unpaid.

In his decree, Justice Makau directed the church to pay her Sh19,000 as compensation for 21 days’ annual leave, Sh57,000 for three months of unpaid maternity leave, Sh114,000 as compensation for the unfair termination of employment, Sh5,066 for unpaid salary for eight days in November and Sh19,000 for one month salary in lieu of notice.