Justice Zaynab Bashir of the National Industrial Court has awarded a driver, Sunday Onyemara the sum of N500,000 as general damages for the wrongful termination of his employment.
While delivering judgment on Wednesday, Justice Zaynab held said the firm failed to accord the claimant the right to a fair hearing before terminating his employment.
Consequently, she declared that the termination of Mr Onyemara’s employment on October 31, 2019, from Wheels Services Ltd., was wrongful.
- Mr Sunday told the court that he was employed by the firm as a driver in September 2019. However, he was later arrested with one of his colleagues over alleged misconduct.
- The matter was being investigated by the police and upon the conclusion of the investigation, the police report exonerated him from the misconduct allegation.
- However, while the investigation was still ongoing, the firm terminated his appointment which resulted to him filing a lawsuit against the firm for the unlawful termination of his employment.
- The defendant, Wheels Services Ltd told the court that the claimant’s employment was terminated in compliance with the terms and conditions governing his employment.
The defendant’s claim
The firm argued that it wasn’t its duty to investigate crimes but that because the activity of the claimant contravened the provisions of the terms of employment, they validly terminated his employment.
They averred that the claimant was directed to liaise with the accounting department to reconcile his account for full payment of all his entitlements.
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Consequently, they urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
What the judge ruled
- After listening to both parties’ submissions and arguments, the court held that the moment a reason was given for employment termination, it must be justified by the employer.
- The court said nothing was placed before the court to show the intermediate action taken by the defendant to hear from the claimant whether what was gathered about him was true or false.
- Ruling on the matter the judge said “In the instant case, the haste with which the defendant dismissed the claimant from employment without verification of the information reaching them from the claimant’s work station is made more apparent by the fact that the defendant posited that the claimant abdicated his duty for over a month.”
- The judge held that the firm did not state the truth with regards to the allegation of Onyemara’s abdication of duty.
- The court did not grant other reliefs sought by the claimant for lacking merit, however, the court awarded N500,000 in general damages for the wrongful termination of the claimant’s employment.