DHL to pay TT$2.3m for wrongful dismissal

(Trinidad Guardian) The Industrial Court has ordered that international courier firm DHL pay TT$2.3 million in compensation for the wrongful dismissal of its former district manger for the English-speaking Caribbean.

Delivering an oral judgment yesterday, Industrial Court judge Melvin Daniel ruled that the company acted unlawfully when it made the manager redundant less than two months after she was given the position in August 2012.

Lawyers representing the worker’s union, the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU), requested that the worker’s identity be withheld as she feared she might become a victim of crime due to her windfall from the case.

According to the evidence in the case, the company claimed the worker was made redundant in March 2013 due to a restructuring exercise throughout the international organisation.

However, the CWU, claimed that she was fired as she was forced to take a month sick leave in December 2012 after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The disorder arose out of an incident in 2007, in which the woman’s husband was murdered during a botched robbery whilst they and their children were on vacation in Venezuela.

The union claimed that the redundancy was a sham to disguise the real reason for her dismissal.

“The worker suffered from PTSD, and as a consequence, the employer elected to contrive this redundancy in order to rid themselves of an employee who was ill, had been on extended sick leave, and as a consequence, the risk was that she would not be capable of operating at premium levels,” the union’s lawyer Michael Quamina said in his submission in the case.

The union also took issue with the fact that the company attempted to produce a computer generated report from October 2012, which it claimed showed that the worker was being considered for redundancy.

“It is wholly inconsistent with redundancy for it to be the case that a worker who is made redundant is promoted into a position a mere two months prior to the commencement of the exercise,” Quamina said.

He also pointed to the fact that after the worker returned from a month sick leave in December 2012, she was offered voluntary separation from the company due to illness. While she was challenging the move, she was made redundant.

“It was only when the company came to the view that the workers’ illness may affect her performance was separation explored, and when the negotiations for separation promised to be tough, they instead surreptitiously created the redundancy with respect to the worker and separated her on the minimum formula provided under the Retrenchment and Severance Act in order to avoid costs associated with a negotiated separation,” Quamina said.

In his judgment Daniel agreed with the union’s explanation for the incident as he described the dismissal as egregious.

While the union was claiming that the worker was entitled to three years of her last monthly salary (TT$123,000 inclusive of a car and housing allowance), Daniel reduced the figure.

 

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