Board admits it erred in firing marketing officer
A local Government agency yesterday admitted that it breached the law when it fired its marketing And public relations officer nearly three years ago.
Barbados Vocational Training Board (BVRB) Director Henderson Thompson told the Employment Rights Tribunal yesterday that the Board erred in its handling of the termination of Jasmine Valerie Payne on October 31, 2013.
Payne’s attorney Tricia Watson grilled Thompson for about two hours, as the
hearing continued into the unfair dismissal case at the tribunal’s Warrens, St Michael office complex.
In her relentless cross examination, Watson succeeded in getting Thompson to admit that both he and the BVTB failed to follow the relevant mandatory procedures set out in the Employment Rights Act before informing Payne by letter that the statutory board would not renew her fixed-date contract.
The witness further conceded that he ignored those procedures which must be adhered to, before the services of an employee could be terminated.
The evidence before the panel is that the board cut ties with Payne because of her “confrontational, arrogant and aggressive” attitude towards other employees and management.
The questioning by the attorney was so intense that at one point, the witness appeared to have lost his way as he responded. Immediately after he took personal responsibility for ignoring the procedures, Thompson said the board had acted correctly, before adding: “I am not sure we [employer] did.”
Pressed even further, the director, confessed: “No, we [employer] did not [follow the procedures].”
While giving testimony earlier today, Thompson was even more specific about his actions leading up to Payne’s dismissal.
“I didn’t follow all of the terms and conditions. I didn’t follow the process that Payne be given due process . . .I misstepped. I have to take full responsibility for that . . . and I didn’t follow that,” he told the three-member penal comprising Chairman Omari Drakes, Dr Hartley Richards and Frederick Forde.
The BVTB director admitted that Payne was not given a statement setting out the basis for her dismissal; was not afforded her right to be heard after dismissal and was not sent a letter outlining the evidence to back up the statutory agency’s allegations of misconduct.
The witness also admitted that the dismissed employee was not told that staff complaints against her were being investigated, nor did she attend any of the meetings with the complaints sub-committee, or participate in any of the proceedings dealing with complaints against her, although she was entitled to be represented by anyone of her choice.
When asked why the board did not accede to Payne’s request for a hearing, Thompson replied: “I was satisfied when I looked at Payne’s file, she did not hold the requisite qualifications for marketing and public relations officer. The board also agreed . . . she didn’t have a diploma or degree.”
He said he was also advised by legal counsel that it would have been futile to go through the unfair dismissal process because the decision would be the same.
The state entity is being represented by attorney at law Vincent Watson. The hearing continues on Monday at 2 p.m. when Thompson will again be subjected to more cross-examination by Payne’s lawyer.