A former temporary general worker of The Lodge School in St John has won his unfair dismissal claim against his ex-employer and has been awarded over $9,000 in compensation.
The judgment was delivered this morning by Chairman of the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) and former High Court Justice Christopher Blackman, Q.C. in the case brought by the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) on behalf of Keith Lewis.
Lewis was hired on March 10, 2008 and fired on July 29, 2014, one day before he was due to go on vacation. A hand-delivered letter dated July 23, 2014 advised him that his application for the [permanent] position of general worker was unsuccessful.
“The tribunal unanimously determined that the claimant, Mr Lewis, had been unfairly dismissed by the respondent, the Board of Management of The Lodge School,” Blackman declared in the decision of the three-member body.
The board had alleged that over the years, Lewis was given several verbal warnings relating to his work habits and one written warning dated March 1, 2011 from then Secretary Treasurer of the Board Judith Murrell, which particularly cited his non-compliance with the requirement to work until 4.30 p.m.
But in its judgment, the tribunal noted with concern that Lewis’ employment was terminated by a subcommittee of the Board and “in breach of all the conventions and norms, just before he was due on his 21 working days’ vacation.”
“In all the circumstances, the tribunal is satisfied that Mr Lewis was unfairly dismissed and accordingly, we so declare,” Blackman added.
The ERT also recommended that the Board of The Lodge School reviews its Rules of Governance, stating that “It is contrary to all proper norms for a letter of dismissal to be issued prior to Board approval, and the tribunal strongly deprecates the seemingly cavalier approach by the Board as to how Mr Lewis’ matter was handled.”
In granting the former general worker compensation, the ERT took guidance from Section 22 (2) of the Employment Rights Act which addresses minimum notice and Sections 37 (1) (a) and 37 (2) (a) that covers basic pay.
The chairman explained that Section 22 (2) (b) requires that four weeks’ notice be given for a fortnightly paid employee where the period of continuous employment is five years or more, but less than ten years.
He pointed out that at the time of his dismissal, the claimant received $968.52 gross fortnightly. However, Blackman said the tribunal declined to follow the previous decisions of Orlando Harris versus Chefette Restaurants Limited and Anne-Marie Holder versus AVG Investments Inc. where the computation was made on the net amount received by the claimant.
In the tribunal’s view, National Insurance deductions should not be considered in computing the award as the NIS relationship came to an end with the dismissal.
“The amount to which Mr Lewis is entitled under Section 22 (2)(b) is $1,937.04. The calculation of the basic award is as provided in the Fifth Schedule to the Act. The entitlement is two and a half weeks’ wages for each year where the period is two years or more, but less than ten years. In accordance with the schedule, the amount due as basic pay is 2.5x$484.26×6=$7,263.90,” Blackman told the gathering that included BSTU president Mary Redman, Assistant General Secretary Kirtis Luke and consultant Patrick Frost.
The tribunal therefore ordered the Board of The Lodge School to pay the former general worker the sum of $9,200.94 by August 31 of this year.