Citibank employee loses dismissal claim over 'two lunch' sacking

An employee of the global financial institution lost an unfair dismissal claim over questionable expense claims during a business trip to Amsterdam. He faced termination after filing for two lunches on the company's €100 daily allowance. His manager questioned the 'double meals,' to which the employee explained in an email citing skipped breakfast and unconventional meal timings. However, he later admitted to sharing a meal with his partner.

A Citibank employee who was sacked after claiming for two lunches has lost his claim of unfair dismissal. The issue arose after the employee, Mr Szabolcs Fekete, was sent on a business trip to Amsterdam. He took his partner with him, contrary to company policy. He later filed an expense claim for food and drink which he believed was covered by the bank's €100 daily allowance. The claims showed that at some mealtimes he had ordered two sandwiches, two coffees and two pasta dishes. His manager questioned how he had consumed the ‘double meals’. He answered in an email saying:

"I was on the business trip by myself. I had 2 coffees as they were very small. On that day I skipped breakfast and only had 1 coffee in the morning. For lunch I had 1 sandwich with a drink and 1 coffee in the restaurant, and took another coffee back to the office with me and had the second sandwich in the afternoon… which also served as my dinner. 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."

Citibank escalated the matter and asked Fekete if he had shared a meal of pasta pesto and a Bolognese with his partner. He said he had not. However, he later admitted that he had done so. He added that he was having difficulties following the death of his grandmother, had been on medical leave and was taking strong medication when he wrote his email. The bank investigated further but then dismissed him.

The Employment Tribunal dismissed his claims of unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal. Judge Illing said: "I have found that 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 claimant thereafter. It is significant that the claimant did not make a full and frank disclosure at the first opportunity and that he did not answer questions directly. The claimant was employed in a position of trust in a global financial institution. I am satisfied that even if the expense claim had been filed under a misunderstanding, there was an obligation upon the claimant to own up and rectify the position at the first opportunity. I accept that the respondent requires a commitment to honesty from its employees."

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