General News of Friday, 29 December 2017
The Supreme Court has awarded damages of GHC 100,000 against Agricultural Development Bank (adb) for wrongfully terminating an employee’s contract.
In 2012, the employee, Abena Pokua Ackah, who is the applicant, was handed a letter by adb which indicated that her appointment had been terminated for gross misconduct, and for bringing the name of the bank into disrepute.
“You will be paid an amount equivalent to three months basic salary in lieu of notice as well as other benefits due to you in accordance with the terms of your employment less your indebtedness to the bank,” portions of the letter indicated.
However, Pokua Ackah, who felt her rights had been infringed upon, subsequently sued the bank for what she described as “wrongful dismissal.”
She initiated the action at the Human Rights Division of the High Court, pursuant to Article 33(1) of the Constitution, 1992 and Order 67 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, C.1 47 2004.
What led to the dismissal
The salient facts upon which the Applicant relied upon for the trial of the action in the High Court are the following:-
Sometime in or between May and June 2011, the Applicant herein had a conversation with a certain Nana Yaw Yeboah, reputed to be a journalist. In that conversation which was allegedly secretly taped by the said Nana Yaw Yeboah, the Applicant was heard complaining about the restructuring of the Respondent Bank and the excessive bonus that was received by it’s Managing Director.
After the contents of the tape had been made known to the Applicant by the Respondents on or by 8/8/2011, she was called by the Human Resources Department to discuss her current debt profile. However, when she went, she was rather directed to meet the Board of Directors. At this meeting, an edited version of the recorded conversation was played, and the Chairman of the Respondent’s Board of Directors described the remarks of the Applicant as “vulgar, abusive and which qualified her for disciplinary action.”
On 10th August 2011, the Applicant received a letter suspending her with half pay pending completion of the disciplinary proceedings. As stated supra, the letter described the recorded conversation and characterized her language as “vulgar, intemperate and abusive” and “criminal and defamatory.”
The letter also stated that, she had “put into the public domain false and inaccurate information” and that her behaviour amounted to willful and gross misconduct, a breach of her oath of secrecy, and a poor reflection on her integrity as an officer of the bank. She was directed to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against her.
On the 18th of August 2011, the Applicant reacted to the letter in two ways. The first was to file an application in the High Court for the enforcement of her fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech. The second was to submit a letter to the Chairman of the Respondent Bank through her Solicitors, in which she again asserted her rights to privacy and freedom of speech.
In December 2011, the Respondent appeared before the Respondents Disciplinary Committee with her Lawyer, and the recorded conversation was played again.
It had been contended by the Applicant that her Lawyer objected to the tape on grounds that the recording and use of the secretly recorded conversations in disciplinary hearings contravened her rights of privacy and freedom of speech.
The Committee invited her to comment on the contents of the tape, but beyond disputing their admissibility, she offered no further comment.
On 13th February 2012, the Respondents wrote the letter terminating the appointment of the Applicant with immediate effect.
Following this development, the applicant abandoned her previous application for the enforcement of her fundamental human rights in the High Court, and filed a fresh action in response to her dismissal at the High Court.
Applicant loses at High Court
However, the High Court presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante on June 7, 2012, dismissed the applicant’s application, and held that indeed the dismissal did not in anyway infringe on her freedom of speech and expression.
Applicant loses again at Court of Appeal
Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied again, the applicant filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal, but that was also dismissed in April 2014.
Applicant wins at Supreme Court
The dissatisfied applicant then moved to the Apex Court of the land, the Supreme Court, where she secured a favaourable ruling after her reliefs were granted.
The Supreme Court in delivering its ruling said ” The applicant is granted Ghc100,000.00 damages under the violations of her rights arising from reliefs (i) and also reliefs (v) and (vi). There will however be no consequential orders in view of the nature of the procedure used by the applicant in this case as already amplified supra”.