Court orders firm to pay ex-staff N1.2 million for unlawful termination of employment

A Port Harcourt division of the National Industrial Court has ordered ACM Limited to pay Mrs Julia Imoh the sum of N1, 265, 000.00 as unpaid salaries and leave allowances within 30 days.

The presiding judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman made the order on Friday after listening to submissions from both counsel to the claimant and counsel to the defendant.

The judge declared the purported issuance of query and sudden termination of Mrs. Imoh’s employment without notice as illegal and unlawful.

What happened in court

Mrs. Imoh told the court that she was employed on the 4th of February, 2019, and the firm stopped paying her salaries and other outstanding entitlements since February, 2020.

She averred that she was issued a letter dated March 12, 2020, directing her to embark on 22 working days compulsory leave. However, before granting her the leave, her boss had forcefully seized her office keys and shut down her official email.

She submitted that she had demanded payment of her outstanding salary and benefits through her lawyer but the firm hurriedly issued her a query dated 18th June 2020 and thereafter dismissed her from employment without giving her notice on 25/6/2020 contrary to the terms of the contract of employment.

She prayed the court to grant her relief sought.

In defense, the firm argued that the claimant did not respond to the query she was issued. They claimed she did not provide any service to the firm between March 13 and June 25, 2020, and as such, she was not entitled to any salary.

The firm’s counsel submitted that the acts of the claimant (Mrs Imoh) amounts to gross insubordination and misconduct, and was deserving of summary dismissal from employment,

They asked the court to dismiss the case in its entirety and grant the counter-claimed damages.

What the judge ruled

Delivering judgment, Justice Polycarp held that there is no provision for dismissal in the contract of service between both parties and the law is trite that parties are bound by the terms of their agreement.

The Court held that Mrs. Imoh’s employment was not terminated in line with the provisions of the employment offer, and no provision for dismissal in the agreement ordered the firm to pay the claimant the sum of N230,000.00 as salary in lieu of notice as provided in the offer of employment.

The court dismissed the firm’s counter-claims for lacking merit. Justice Polycarp also ordered that Mrs. Imoh be allowed access to the office to retrieve her items and money (if any) left in the office.

The firm was ordered to pay Mrs Imoh a total of N1, 265, 000.00 (One Million, Two Hundred and Sixty-Five Thousand Naira) as unpaid salaries and leave allowances.

He also urged both parties to keep the peace while complying with the order of the court.

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