As most children grow up learning, it’s not necessarily the size of the transgression that does you in. It’s being found out, digging in, and lying about it.
Szabolcs Fekete's Wrongful Dismissal Lawsuit
Szabolcs Fekete, a senior analyst in London, has lost a lawsuit alleging wrongful dismissal after he was fired by Citi for submitting an expenses claim that raised red flags for the heroic consumption of coffee, sandwiches, and bolognaise on display.
In a ruling in the case, a judge with the East London employment tribunal said Fekete described his work as developing internal strategies, policies, and risk-management frameworks to ensure compliance with laws and regulations. “From his evidence, the claimant confirmed that he was a financial-crime professional,” the ruling said.
Expense Claim Incident
Fekete's dismissal in November 2022, seven years after joining Citi, came after management queried an expense claim for a three-day business trip to Amsterdam earlier that year because it appeared to reflect consumption by two people. After his claim was rejected, Fekete wrote in an email to a senior manager that he “was on the business trip by myself and that I had 2 coffees as they were very small.”
Employee Terminated for Violating Expense Policy and Lying During Investigation
In a recent case at Citi, an employee, Fekete, was terminated for breaching the company's expense-management policy and providing false information during an internal investigation.
The issue arose when Fekete claimed that he alone had consumed two coffees, two sandwiches, and another drink. When asked to confirm this by a senior employee, Fekete acknowledged the consumption: "Yes, that is correct." He explained that he had skipped breakfast that day and had one coffee in the morning. For lunch, he had a sandwich with a drink and another coffee at the restaurant. He then brought another coffee back to the office and had the second sandwich in the afternoon, which served as his dinner.
Management pressed further, leading Fekete to respond via email, stating that all his expenses were within the €100 daily allowance. He questioned the need for justifying his eating habits in such detail: "Could you please outline what your concern is as I don't think I have to justify my eating habits to this extent."
As the dispute escalated, it was referred to Citi's ethics office, which appointed an internal investigator. The tribunal determined that Fekete consistently denied sharing a meal of "pasta pesto and a bolognaise" with his partner.
However, in August 2022, Fekete finally admitted that his partner had consums part of the food. Despite his reasoning of recently losing a family member and being on medical leave and medication at the time of responding to the emails about the claim, Citi decided to terminate his employment.
During the ruling, the judge noted that Fekete had not answered questions directly during cross-examination, casting further doubt on his credibility.
This case serves as a reminder to employees about the importance of adhering to company policies and providing truthful information during investigations.
Upholding Honesty in the Workplace
In a recent case, the judge has made it clear that honesty is of utmost importance in the professional realm. The claim made by Fekete was ultimately dismissed as the judge believed that regardless of any misunderstandings, it was the claimant's duty to take responsibility and correct the situation promptly. It was acknowledged that Citi, the respondent in this case, values and expects its employees to uphold a strong commitment to honesty.