Citibank employee sacked after insisting two meals claimed on expenses were ‘just for him’ loses unfair dismissal case

17 October 2023, 13:11

Citibank sacked its employee for gross misconduct.
Citibank sacked its employee for gross misconduct. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

A former Citibank employee took his employer to court after he was sacked for lying on an expense claim.

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Szabolcs Fekete, who worked at Citi for seven years, claimed that he consumed two sandwiches, two coffees and two pasta dishes by himself during a business trip to Amsterdam - but later admitted that his partner had shared some of the meals.

Now Citibank has won an employment tribunal against Mr Fekete after he was sacked and took the bank to court for unfair dismissal.

Mr Fekete, who visited Amsterdam during a two-day business trip in July 2022, filed an expense claim of €100 (£86.70) for food and drink on his return to London.

While Mr Fekete's expense claim fell within the daily expense allowance, one of his managers queried the figure.

“I was on the business trip by myself and... I had 2 coffees as they were very small,” Mr Fekete told his manager in an email exchange.

Read out during the tribunal, the email continued: “On that day I skipped breakfast and only had one coffee in the morning. For lunch I had one sandwich with a drink and one 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.”

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Citibank won the employment tribunal.
Citibank won the employment tribunal. Picture: Alamy

The names of all attendees whose meals are submitted on the expense claim must also be listed.

Citi pursued the inquiry into his claim, involving the security and investigations services department, which later asked if his two-meal dinner consisting of a pesto pasta and a bolognaise had been shared with his partner.

Mr Fekete initially insisted he hadn’t but later admitted his partner did share some of the meals.

He also said that he was having personal difficulties following the death of his grandmother, had taken six weeks of medical leave and was on strong medication when he replied to emails.

He was eventually sacked for gross misconduct before he took Citi to court for unfair and wrongful dismissal.

Employment Judge Illing ruled in favour of his employer at the end of the tribunal, according to the Financial Times.

“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,” the judge said.

“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.”

A Citi spokesperson said of the finding: “We are pleased with the decision”.