Hon. Justice Zaynab Bashir of the Portharcourt Judicial division of the National Industrial Court has declared the employment termination of Mr. Sunday Onyemara dated the 3rd of October, 2019 from Wheels Services Limited as wrongful; awarded the sum of N500k against the firm as general damages for the wrongful employment termination.
The Court held that the firm has not stated the truth with regards to the allegation of Onyemara's abdication of duty and also failed to accord him the right to fair hearing before terminating his employment.
From facts, the claimant- Mr. Sunday Onyemara had submitted that he was employed by the firm as a car driver and sometime in September 2019 he was arrested with one of his colleagues for alleged misconduct and the matter was properly investigated by the Police officer.
He added that the police report clearly exonerated him from the misconduct act but the firm hastily terminated his appointment while the investigation of the Police was ongoing, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
In defense, the defendant- Wheels Services Limited averred that Mr. Onyemara's employment termination was done in compliance with the terms of the agreement and was directed to liaise with the accounting department to reconcile his account for full compensation and payment of all his entitlements.
In further submission, the firm averred that it is not their duty to investigate crimes but since the activity of Mr. Onyemara contravenes the provisions of the terms of employment, they could validly terminate his employment, urged the Court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
In opposition, claimant counsel argued that there is no merit in the defense put up by the firm and urged the court to grant all the claims sought.
After painstaking evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding Judge, Justice Zainab Bashir held that the moment a reason is given for employment termination, it must be justified by the employer and nothing is placed before the court to show the intermediate action taken by the Defendant to hear from Mr. Sunday Onyemara whether what was gathered about him was true or false.
“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…” Justice Zaynab Ruled
However, the court declined other reliefs for lacking merit.