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Teacher Wins Case Against Ministry

A secondary school teacher has won an employment case against the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts (MEHA).
05 Oct 2022 13:00
Teacher Wins Case Against Ministry
Lawyer, Damodaran Nair.

A secondary school teacher has won an employment case against the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts (MEHA).

Savitri Shankaran filed a case against MEHA’s permanent secretary through her lawyer, Damodaran Nair.

She was holding the position of acting vice principal of Bucalevu Secondary School when she was issued a final warning letter by MEHA which included the decision that she would not be considered for an acting role in 2020.

Shankaran then filed the action seek- ing certain orders such as:

  • A declaration that the PS MEHA has acted contrary to the employment contract.
  • A declaration that the said final warning letter was unlawful, unfair, and unjustified.
  • A declaration that the decision to restrain the worker from any acting position in 2020 is unjustified, discriminatory, and in breach of the principles of fair labour practices.
  • An order that the PS MEHA immediately withdraws the final warning letter

 

Shankaran in her affidavit said:

  • That during term 2 in 2019, when she was still holding the position of acting vice principal, she was advised by the principal to conduct an investigation into the conduct of a teacher, namely Kiran Lata who had inflicted corporal punishment on students
  • That she submitted the report to the principal for further action as the parent of the child was concerned and making frequent enquiries.
  • That the letter contained bare allegations against her without any supporting documents or investigation report.
  • That the MEHA had acted in bad faith by failing to take into account that she was merely performing her duties

 

The MEHA in their affidavit of defence said:

  • That on November 10, 2019, the MEHA received a complaint against Shankaran by a teacher of Bucalevu Secondary School alleging that Shankaran had disclosed information regarding to Ms Lata’s performance and disciplinary issue to external parties being the chief exam supervisor and Ms Lata’s mother-in-law through the Facebook messenger app. The MEHA provided the screenshots of messages with the complaint letter.
  • That the complaint letter was re- viewed by the former PS who was satisfied with the allegations therefore amounted to a breach of confidentiality under the employment contract.
  • MEHA position was that any appointment into the civil service was based on the open merit and selection process..

In her judgment, Employment Relations Court Judge Justice Anjala Wati said MEHA had acted contrary to its powers in issuing the final warning letter against Shankaran and restraining her from an acting role in the year 2020.

She said such acts amounted to a penalty which could only be imposed on Shankaran by PS MEHA if the Minister responsible for MEHA agreed or by the PS MEHA upon directions issued by the Public Service Disciplinary Tribunal pursuant to a disciplinary action heard and determined upon the agreement of the Minister.

Justice Wati declared that the final warning letter was null and void and had no effect.

She ordered the final letter to be expunged from the records, however; the claim for damages was dismissed.

She awarded Shankaran costs against MEHA in the sum of $3000 to be paid within 21 days from October 4.

 

Story By: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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