High Court Master rules against CCC/Francis' 'reprehensible conduct'
Castries Mayor Peterson Francis and the Castries Constituency Council (CCC) came in for some heavy tongue lashing by High Court Master Agnes Actie just about a week ago in an unfair dismissal case between the CCC and a former employee, Comble Deterville.
Master Actie, who passed judgement in favour of Deterville, told Francis that he acted in total disregard to the labour laws which had been engaged, in an attempt to resolve the issue between Deterville and the CCC.
Deterville, who was dismissed by letter dated 16th March 2017, by the Council’s Chief Executive Officer, took to the court for redress after exhausting the statutory avenues through which he must first use in his bid for justice.
“The series of events culminating in the dismissal of the claimant (Deterville) lead to the inescapable conclusion that the defendant’s (CCC) conduct was domineering, highhanded and reprehensible,” noted Master Actie in his judgement.
According to Master Actie “it appears that that the Mayor unilaterally issued directives to the claimant (Deterville), giving him one day’s notice to commence working the night shift without regards to his terms of employment, years of service in senior positions and as head of the constabulary. The Mayor proceeded to suspend the claimant on September 8, 2016. In a letter dated October 17, 2016, the Town Clerk lifted the suspension. The claimant was then sent on 64 days’ vacation leave as soon as the suspension was lifted. The Mayor continued what can be termed harassment and intimidation even while the claimant was on vacation leave with a letter informing the claimant that the disciplinary matter will commence on the same day of his resumption from his vacation. The uncertainty of his employment on return from his vacation leave surely must have been stressful,” wrote Actie.
Master Actie, in his judgement, wrote that “the pattern of intimidation continued with the Town Clerk insisting that the claimant’s (Deterville’s) uniform was not in keeping with his rank and requesting that he should not remain on the compound wearing the uniform which he wore since 2008.”
“This seemed to be unwarranted as the claimant (Deterville) had been appointed to act as head constable over an extended period of time until the position of head constable was regularized. The Mayor acted in total disregard to the labour laws which had been engaged in an attempt to resolve the issue. The Mayor proceeded to dismiss the claimant in light of the pending hearing before the Department of Labour which is a creature of statute with responsibility to deal with industrial relations issues. The Mayor continued with the disciplinary action in clear defiance of the letter from the claimant’s (Deterville’s) counsel and Ms Dariah from the Department of Labour. The Mayor’s arrogance continued right down to the time of judgment when he failed to file a defence to the claimant’s (Deterville’s) claim thus giving rise to the extant default judgment,” wrote Master Actie in his judgement.
“It is clear that the Mayor’s conduct and motive was designed to achieve just one result namely, the dismissal of the claimant,” noted Master Actie in his judgement.
Writing that he had assessed the CCC’s conduct in the context of all the circumstances in the case, Master Actie went on to state that “I am of the view that the defendant’s (CCC’s) conduct was oppressive, highhanded, reprehensible and an abuse of power. The Mayor acted in clear disregard of the claimant’s (Deterville’s) rights under the Labour Act.
Master Actie awarded Deterville Exemplary Damages in the sum of $25,000.00 with interest at the rate of 6% from judgment until payment in full. Further, that the CCC pay Deterville the following sums: Gratuity payment in the sum of $111,082.48 with interest at the rate of 3% from the date of dismissal to the date of judgment and at the rate of 6% from judgment until payment in full; Severance pay in the sum $16,450.00 with interest at the rate of 6% from judgment until payment in full; Immediate loss of earnings in the sum of $8,289.48 with interest at the rate of 3% from the date of dismissal to the date of judgment and at the rate of 6% from judgment until payment in full and Prescribed Costs on the global sum in accordance with Civil Procedure Rule 65.5.