Chefette Restaurants Limited will have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in compensation for firing one of its assistant managers two years ago.
Declaring this morning in a unanimous judgment that Orlando Harris was unfairly dismissed on January 27, 2014, the Employment Rights Tribunal ordered the popular fast foods restaurant to pay him $106, 630.01 in damages that include 27 months retroactive wages and vacation pay.
In her 15-page decision, chairperson of the three-member panel Kathy-Ann Hamblin also told the company it had 28 days within which to pay Harris, who had been employed at Chefette as an assistant manager since January 4, 2000.
Chefette had contended that the claimant was terminated in accordance with Clause 11 of its conditions and terms of employment 2010 to 2013, for failing to follow the cash-handling procedures for the day-to-day running of the restaurant.
Among the procedures are that cashiers are allowed to cash a cheque for employees on the same or similar category, but are not allowed to cash the company’s cheques made out to a manager without permission from the manager on duty; and that if a manager wants to cash a cheque issued by the firm, he would pass it to the cashier during the balancing of the intake.
Chefette also claimed that on September 14, 2013, a cheque made payable to Donnalyn Ward, another employee, was received, endorsed with the signature of ‘O Harris’, cashed and deposited during the shift managed by the claimant, who could lend no clarity to the matter when asked to do so by the company.
However, the tribunal said the real issue before it was whether the fast food restaurant’s decision to fire Harris was fair in all the circumstances.
“The unanimous decision of the tribunal is that on January 27, 2014 when the respondent dismissed the claimant, retroactive to January 13, 2014, it did so unfairly.
“We hold that the claimant was unfairly dismissed; the claim is well founded, the claim succeeds. We do not think that the respondent followed the procedures in the [Employment Rights] Act. There were so many procedural defects, and those defects were so fundamental, we could not come to any other decision,” ruled Hamblin.
It was at this point that the chairperson asked Harris what order he wanted the tribunal to make, instructing him that reinstatement was an option to which he was entitled. She told him if he went for reinstatement, he would return to his position as assistant manager with all of his benefits restored, including full recovery of arrears of wages for the 27 months he was away from Chefette.
“We can also order that you be re-engaged by Chefette Restaurants Limited or one of its related companies; again if that is your desire. If you were re-engaged, you would not necessarily go back as assistant manager of a restaurant, but could go back in in a similar position in another related company, if you so desire, and you would be entitled again to reimbursment of your benefits, your salary, any other benefits to which you would have been entitled, but for your dismissal,” the presiding commissioner said.
In response, Harris told the commissioners he had reservations returning to work at Chefette, since he was uncertain how this would affect him or the company. Hamblin therefore suggested that the option opened to him was a monetary award.
“The monetary award would be satisfatory to me, rather than going back into that environment. I am not sure how I would be treated. I must say though that prior to this, I had a very good working relationship with Chefette and the managers. This issue has soured that relationship,” the former assistant manager stated.
When the chairperson asked Chefette’s Administrative and Industrial Relations Manager Kenneth Harvey, who was flanked by their lawyer Esther Obiora Arthur, if he agreed the relationship was good, he replied “yes I do”.