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Unfair dismissal: Food for thought as Employer wins Tribunal case after dismissing employee for misrepresenting his refreshment expenses

08 November 2023

In the case of Mr Szabolcs Fekete v Citibank N.A., Citibank dismissed the Claimant, a Senior Analyst, for gross misconduct arising from his misrepresentation of the refreshment expenses he claimed during a business trip to Amsterdam. 

The East London Employment Tribunal dismissed the Claimant's claims for unfair and wrongful dismissal. These findings were made despite the relatively low amount of expenses claimed, as the Tribunal accepted that the Respondent Bank required a "commitment to honesty from its employees".


The Claimant was a Senior Analyst at the Bank and had recently been promoted to Financial Crime Risk Manager, which would have taken effect from 1 January 2023.

On 3 July 2022, the Claimant travelled to Amsterdam for business. Before leaving, he told his colleague that his partner was travelling with him. He submitted his expenses for the trip on 8 July, claiming reimbursement for two sandwiches, two coffees and two pasta dishes. On 18 July 2022, the approver indicated they believed the meals were for two people.

The Claimant advised the approver that all of the food was consumed by him and that the amounts claimed were "well within the 100 Euro per day limit". The approver expressed their concern in relation to other parts of the Bank's Expenses Policy – namely that spousal travel and meals were not reimbursable and that all attendees whose meals were submitted must be listed on the request.


On 2 August 2022, the approver raised their concerns with the Bank's Ethics Office and an investigator was appointed. At the investigation meeting, the Claimant reaffirmed that he alone had consumed the food. On 22 August 2022, the Claimant admitted that some items had been consumed by his partner.

In October, a disciplinary committee heard the following allegations against the Claimant:

  1. Expenses claim – submitting expenses for meals and indicating he was the only attendee; and
  2. Misrepresentation – repeatedly insisting that the food was consumed by him alone, until eventually admitting that his partner had accompanied him on the trip and consumed some of the food.

On 1 December 2022, both allegations were upheld to be gross misconduct and the Claimant was summarily dismissed. The Claimant was afforded the right to appeal and did so. The appeal meeting took place on 24 January 2023. The Bank took into account the Claimant's mitigation, but was satisfied that there was no new evidence and the decision to dismiss for gross misconduct was reasonable.


The Tribunal considered the normal legal principles relating to unfair dismissal, ultimately finding in the Bank's favour.

The Claimant's conduct was a fair reason for the dismissal. The Tribunal found that the Bank genuinely believed the Claimant's expenses claim included expenses that he was not entitled to recover and that the Claimant had subsequently acted in an evasive and dishonest manner.

The procedure followed by the Bank was not perfect, but the imperfection did not amount to an unfair procedure. Of the issues raised by the Claimant, the Tribunal found specifically that:

  • Failure to suspend him did not detract from the seriousness of the allegations.
  • There was no obligation to provide the Claimant with time to prepare for the investigation meeting.
  • The Bank had an unfettered discretion to determine the sanction according to their assessment of severity following the disciplinary hearing.

The dismissal fell within the band of reasonable responses by a reasonable employer. The Tribunal noted in particular that the Claimant was employed in a position of trust in a global financial institution and owed the Bank a commitment to honesty. This was compounded by his failure to make a full and frank disclosure at the first opportunity.


While the sanction in this case may seem harsh to some, particularly given the low amount of expenses claimed, a key element was the concept of honesty. 

The case reinforces to employers the importance of following a fair procedure, in which the employee is afforded every opportunity to put forward their case and any mitigation factors.

The Tribunal accepted that the issue may have started from a genuine misunderstanding. However, throughout the judgment, they consistently refer to the Claimant failing to answer direct questions and maintaining a false positon. This ultimately led them to find that the dismissal was substantively and procedurally fair.

Authored by Emily Crees

If you would like any legal advice with regard to the issues raised in this update please do not hesitate to get in touch with our author Emily Crees or your usual DWF contact. 

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