I think I was unfairly dismissed, what are my rights?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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Dear Career Advisor,

Please give me some advice. There was an issue with a guest statement and a colleague statement at the place where I was employed for six years. As a result, I was suspended for three days and asked to attend a meeting on the fourth day. When I got to the venue of the meeting, I was handed a letter of termination. The letter stated, in part, that the report of the incident which I produced could be construed as a fabrication of the facts and further, that the report my colleague submitted matched what the guest said. They concluded by saying, “Therefore, we have lost confidence in your ability as a sales representative in our company and are terminating your service with immediate effect. Your final payment will be made by cheque after handing over company possessions.” I returned their uniform the next day. I have not heard from them since.

My questions are: What are my rights, and what should my settlement be?

Yours truly,

Trudy A

Dear Trudy,

Your situation presents a very interesting case.

If our understanding of what you have stated is accurate, that is, you were dismissed without the benefit of a disciplinary hearing; it appears that you have cause to advance a case for unfair dismissal.

Under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, the onus will be on your employer to prove that your dismissal was fair and that the principles of natural justice were not abused.

One tenet of natural justice is that under the law all employees have the right to have charges made against them heard through a formal disciplinary hearing. You did indicate that you were invited to “a meeting”. This meeting did not appear to be a disciplinary hearing, for such hearings would have to satify certain criteria, including but not limited to:

• Notification (verbal and written), of date, time, and place of the hearing;

• An outline of the exact charges, infractions, or allegations against you;

• Notification of your right to representation (or accompaniment), whether by a colleague or union representative. You should have been notified that the person representing or accompanying you would have the latitude of assisting you in preparing and presenting your defence, and assist you in cross-examining witnesses (if any) brought by management.

• Copies of statements and company policies that will be used at the hearing.

Secondly, you indicated that you were suspended for three days. It is not clear if this was without pay. If so, this might also be a breach in procedures on the part of the company as this would have already been a disciplinary action. Therefore, the subsequent dismissal would also be against natural justice.

Lastly, you have the right of appeal against the dismissal. For this, you might need guidance from the experts. We are therefore suggesting that you take immediate steps to explore your rights and see what is the redress, if any, to which you might be entitled. Please visit the Ministry of Labour and consult with a labour relations expert or any industrial relations consultant or trade union.

We are confident that with proper guidance this matter will be resolved.

All the best.

Sincerely,

Career Advisor

Carolyn Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your question to her at careeradvisor@ncu.edu.jm.

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