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Conservation International Foundation sued for alleged bullying, harassment

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An international NGO has been sued for alleged bullying and harassment by the organization’s Africa region boss.

Anne Njugi Wynne has sued Conservation International Foundation demanding Ksh 32 million alleging bullying and harassment by the organization’s Africa region boss.

In the case filed at the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi’s Milimani Commercial Court, Anne Njugi Wynne has been named as the claimant while Conservation International Foundation is the first respondent while Suzanne Ngo-Eyok is the second respondent.

Wynne is a holder of Masters of Business Administration (Human Resource Management) and a Certified Human Resource professional.

Documents filed in court show that on or around January 26, 2016, Wynne was employed as an Executive Assistant for NGO’s Senior Vice President Position.

“The salient terms of the employment contract executed between the claimant and the first respondent are as follows: (a) the employment relationship between the claimant and the first respondent is to be governed by laws of Kenya,” part of court documents shows.

The court documents say that the employment relationship between the claimant and the first respondent is further governed by a code of ethics and various policies enacted by the first respondent.

These include equal opportunity and non-discrimination policy, anti-harassment policy, workplace conduct policy, prevention of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment policy.

Other policies are compensation policy, staffing hiring, job description policy, and anti-retaliation policy.

The documents show that Wynne was promoted on or around July 1, 2021, to the position of Senior Administrative Manager and Executive Assistant, a position she held at the date of the claim.

Wynne cited some of the provisions of codes and policies relevant to the purpose of the claim to include the respondent committing to core values of integrity, respect, courage, optimism, passion, and teamwork.

The Conservation International Foundation employees are also required to act in good faith, responsibility and maintain the highest professional standards at all times.

The Foundation is also required to relevant policies and domestic laws with all employees being entitled to work in an environment free from discrimination.

Court documents say the foundation prohibits discrimination on the basis of (inter alia) race, colour, national origin, religion, sex, disability, medical condition, or any other characteristics protected by applicable law.

Wynne said the policy on non-discrimination applies to all areas of employment, including rates of pay or other compensation or any other benefits.

Despite all these provisions, Wynne says she has been subjected to countless acts of bullying, harassment, abuse and discrimination.

She said the abuse is primarily by Suzanne Ngo-Eyok and ‘one Judy Stanley,’ in direct contravention of the constitution, the Employment Act and Foundation’s codes and policies.

“The second respondent has, since taking up her role as SVP- Africa Operations in September 2022, treated bullied, abused and harassed the Claimant,” part of court documents says.

The documents show that in October 2022, the second respondent disrespected and frustrated the claimant for merely trying to do her of ensuring that the second respondent had legal status to live and work in Kenya.

“The claimant officially wrote to the second respondent on 3rd November 2022, copying the Director HR, Africa and clearly stated how the incident made her feel. The email was also brought to the attention of Kim Keating, the first Respondent’s Chief of People.”

Another incident of bullying, abuse and harassment occurred in February 2023.

Court documents say the claimant was berated for contacting the second respondent for contacting her on a Saturday regarding an urgent consultancy agreement that needed her signature.

Notably, the claimant was acting on the instructions of Judy Stanley, the first respondent’s Director of Operations-Africa Field Division, in contacting the second respondent as she did.

On February 2023, Wynne said the second respondent wrote a nasty email to her on alleged failure to follow up ‘her instructions’ and the laid down guidelines when procuring certain material for the Africa Leadership retreat.

Wynne said the second respondent had not given any clear instructions that she could act on.

She said the second respondent scolded her again in January 2023 following an inadvertent error by the Kenyan immigration officials in spelling one of her names wrong.

Wynne said in 2019, her line manager gave a merit increment of four percent, far below the average of 10 percent awarded to local staff.

When she followed up, her line manager told her that merit increment was ‘his prerogative and not the claimant’s right.’

Court documents say Wynne had been placed on strong antidepressants with severe side effects.

“On 6 March, the claimant responded to the settlement agreement by informing the first respondent that the exit package of Ksh 2,065,768.61 was significantly low, especially in view of aggravating circumstances that informed the claimant’s intended exit.”

Wynne requested Ksh 32,370,152.92 which in her estimation constitutes a fair, reasonable and amicable settlement amount.

 

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