The National Industrial Court has ordered a school, Trinity Model Academy, to pay its former staff member, Mrs Lucy Agabo, N2 million for psychological trauma which resulted from unlawful termination of her employment.
Justice Isaac Essien, in the judgment, declared the action of the school as unlawful, null and void, as same was done in breach of the claimant’s fundamental rights to fair hearing.
The court in addition, ordered the defendant to pay the claimant N200,000 as cost of action within 30 days.
From facts, the claimant submitted that she was employed by the defendant as a classroom teacher in September 2017 and was issued a letter of termination on April 5, 2019 on the grounds of alleged gross misconduct.
She asserted that she never engaged in any act of misconduct and was never issued a query before her termination.
She further argued that the termination was an attempt to destroy her teaching career which she worked tirelessly to build over the years and to further prejudice her chances of job prospects in the future.
The defendant, however, averred that Agabo was found guilty of the offence of gross misconduct .
The school in addition argued that because the appointment of the claimant was temporary in nature, it did not need strict adherence to statutory provisions but from the condition of service drawn from the instrument of employment.
Defence rested its case by urging the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
In response, counsel to Agabo argued that the probation period was supposed to be for one academic calendar year and his client had become a permanent staff from Sept. 2018 when the new academic session commenced.
According to the counsel, he stated that the claimant was no longer a temporary staff when her appointment was terminated and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
The court after evaluating the submissions of both parties, held that the failure of the school to confirm the employment of the claimant after one academic session and continuing to hold her in the employment was nothing but an unfair labour practice.
The court also declared that the claimant was deemed to have been confirmed by operation of the law after one academic session.
Essien equally ruled that the failure of the defendant to issue the claimant a query as provided in the contract of employment which would have afforded her the opportunity to defend the allegation of misconduct made against her, was a clear breach of the right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“The defendant painted a horrific picture of the claimant as a dangerous person who should not be allowed to go near school children but failed to substantiate the allegations.
“I agree with the claimant that if this termination is allowed to stand the claimant may have difficulty furthering her career in the future.
” The defendant cannot, by unlawful act, impede the claimant’s right to be gainfully employed in the future,” the judge ruled.