Court Awards N9m Against Firm Over Wrongful Sack Of Employee

The National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos, has awarded N9.55million against Helios Towers Nigeria, a telecommunication servicing firm, in favour of Miss Jenifer Adighije, for her wrongful sack by the company.

sentenceMiss Adighije, Head of Operations and Planning of the company, who had challenged her sacked over alleged poor performance, had argued that her immediate boss, had graded her excellent in her yearly appraisal, while another body, management review team, which reviewed her appraisal, graded her below average, consequent upon which her appointment was terminated.

Meanwhile, the company denied any wrong doing in its defence, insisting that Adighije was fired because she did not do well in the reviewed appraisal. Justice Abaseki-Osaghae in his judgment said “The claimant stated that her performance was much appreciated by the defendant that when there was a job rotation, she was asked to take charge as Head Operation/Planning in September 2009.

“It is the law that an employer is not bound to give reason for terminating the appointment of its employee but where the employer gives a reason, the law imposes on him a duty to establish the reason to the satisfaction of the court.”

The court after reviewing the argument of parties, said “I find that the said management review team was acting out a script when spitefully, maliciously and without any basis, wrote on the claimant’s appraisal form ‘below expectation’ and recommended that her appointment be terminated. It only stands to reason that if the review team was well intentioned, it ought to have written ‘meets expectation,’ having found that her overall score was 73 percent.

I find that the claimant was properly appraised by T Pretorius, who worked with her for the period January to September, 2009, representing nine months and that the two officers, CEO and Yemisi, who countersigned the appraisal form, were in agreement with the rating and recommendation.

“I therefore, hold that the reason adduced by the defendants for the termination of the claimant’s appointment that her performance failed to meet acceptable standards to be false and malicious. I hold that the claimant’s employment was wrongfully terminated by the defendant. The termination is hereby set aside.”

The court also upheld the claimant’s position that she was entitled to compensation, since she signed the restrictive covenant, not to work for any other telecommunication company, until after two years of her leaving the company, saying “I note that the claimant had been tied down by this restrictive covenant for two years after her employment was wrongfully terminated on February 1, 2010. She has also kept to this covenant. I, therefore, award the sum of N9million as compensation being her salary for two years from January 2010 to January 31, 2012 pursuant to section 19 (d) of the National Industrial Act, 2006.

“For all the reasons given above, I find that the claimant has proved her case. I hereby, declare and make the following orders: the claimant’s employment with the defendant was wrongfully terminated.

The letter of termination is hereby set aside. The reason given in the termination notice written by the defendant that the claimant’s “performance has failed to meet acceptable standard” is false and malicious. The defendant is to pay the claimant the sum of N4.5million as damages for wrongful termination of her appointment. I award in favour of the claimant cost of N50,000 to be paid by the defendant. Judgement is entered accordingly.”

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