NEWS

Sacked Nadi Mother Gets Job Back In Landmark Court Ruling

Priya Payal Chand successfully appeals against Employment Relations Tribunal decision. Justice Anjala Wati’s judgment reinforces the protection of workers’ rights under our employment law.
16 Feb 2020 11:27
Sacked Nadi Mother Gets Job Back In Landmark Court Ruling
Happy family….Priya Payal Chand and husband Shonald Chand with their three children. From left: Shahil, Mr Chand holding Shivnay, Priya Payal Chand and Sheryl in their Qeleloa home at Nadi.

Analysis:

Sacked Nadi mother of three Priya Payal Chand could not contain her joy yesterday.

She had every reason to be happy. On Friday, Mrs Chand  won her two and a half year battle to be reinstated as Customer Service Officer in the Land Transport Authority.

She successfully appealed against the Employment Relations Tribunal ruling. Justice Anjala Wati ruled in her favour.

She said from her Qeleloa home in Nadi: “This is certainly one of the best days of my life. I thank Madam Justice Wati and my two lawyers Damodaran Nair and Dorsami Naidu. The ruling means a lot to me, my husband and three children.”

This is a significant ruling because the Employment Relations Court was exercising its appellate jurisdiction and set aside the ruling of the Employment Relations Tribunal. It is believed this is the first time it has done this under the Employment Relations Act.

Mrs Chand was summarily dismissed on April 13, 2017, for alleged “poor and abrupt performance”, “performance of duty in contradiction of job description and work ethics” and “acts of gross misconduct.”

She filed an action against LTA for unlawful and unfair dismissal and sought an order for reinstatement and compensation for loss in pay and benefits.

The Tribunal found that the evidence did not support the allegations based on which the termination could be justified.

It awarded her six months salary as compensation for  unlawful damages and five per cent post judgment interest.

Mrs Chand then appealed that the Tribunal failed to reinstate her after finding the dismissal unlawful.

Justice Wati ruled that the Tribunal did not adequately consider her application and erred in law in disregarding the aspect of suitable remedy.

She set aside the Tribunal ruling and ordered that Mrs Chand be reinstated from March 1, 2020 and must be paid all wages from April 13, 2017 to March 1, 2020. She also ordered that Mrs Chand be paid court costs of $1500.

Mrs Chand said: “From the first day, I knew I was honest with my job and duties.”

She said she could not forget April 13.

She said she was shocked when she received her dismissal letter.

At the time, she was the sole bread winner in her family.

“My husband had resigned from his job in Nadi,” she remembered. They had kids to look after.

Her dismissal started many rumours including one that she had stolen some money.

She applied for other jobs but her termination followed her wherever she went.

“I was so sad and at times I thought just to end my life,” she said.

She got a new lease of life when she enrolled to do Post graduate study in Climate Change at the University of the South Pacific.

“I would complete my Masters next year,” she said.

It would come in handy at work especially the issues of carbon emissions and the environment. She said she looked forward to returning to work.

She would be going back with a bonus – $48,750 in lost wages, calculated on her annual salary of $19,500 for two and half years.

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