In the series you will be able to identify what the Court regards –or has regarded over the years, as justified dismissals and what it has accounted as unjustified and why.
We start with a judgement that came out in 2013 for misconduct. Two workers, a driver and a loader were dismissed for gross misconduct. In
this case it was attempting to defraud their employer by stealing paints from their employer, a paint manufacturer.
There were six major points that came out for guidance.
The First is that the union argued that the workers were verbally dismissed which made the dismissals harsh and oppressive and contrary to
good industrial relations. This is an important point to note since it indicates that the reigning belief is that a verbal dismissal alone is not
sufficient. This mirrors several awards given in other Caribbean Jurisdictions, where Tribunals have made it quite clear that employees must
be given written notice of dismissal clearly stating why the dismissals have taken place. This is good Industrial Relations practice.
Point number Two is that the Court in T&T only takes up cases that are referred to it by a Minister of Labour’s certificate which specifies what
the issues to be adjudicated on are.
In this case, the issues were whether the dismissals were done verbally only and whether they were dismissed by someone authorised to do
so on behalf of the employer. This also reflects judgements made in other jurisdictions, namely that the person actually doing the dismissal
has the authority to do so. That this authority is so granted may be reflected in the collective agreement or in the company rule book, in policy
documents, grievance procedures or disciplinary procedure notices, but it is important that is so stated.
In this case, it turned out that the employees were given dismissal notices in writing, and the company could prove it. Remember that the
Court is honour bound to ask for actual hard evidence that whatever is claimed to have taken place has taken place.
The Third point is that before the dismissal letter was written or given, there had been a disciplinary hearing.
The Fourth point, and a vital one, is that the employees were given a chance to be heard in their own defence at that hearing.
And Sixth, the employees were paid what they were owed up to the date of the dismissals. This would include any overtime earned and any
vacation leave accrued. Since this was a case of dismissal for cause, not retrenchment, no severance pay or payment in lieu of notice was due.