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Glenford Smith | The rights of an employee

Published:Wednesday | August 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMGlenford Smith


QUESTION: I love reading your articles in the Career section of The Sunday Gleaner, and I believe you are just the right person to help me. I wanted to know if an employer can dismiss an employee without cause and what kind of legal actions can be taken if the employee feels they were treated unfairly. What are the rights of an employee within the probationary period? — V.C.


CAREERS: Thank you for your letter and for reading the Career section of The Sunday Gleaner. I will answer your question in three parts.

Can an employer dismiss an employee without cause? No, an employer cannot dismiss an employee without cause. What can happen though is that an employer can dismiss an employee with justifiable cause whether the employee believes they have done nothing wrong.

In such a case the employer is required to hear out the employee and to hear the explanation offered for the behaviour that the employer has deemed as a dismissible offence. If there is disagreement between worker and employer then a neutral third party, an arbiter, is called in where the worker has tenure and cannot be dismissed forthrightly.

The arbiter can be the personnel department or someone from the employee’s union. You may also look at the Employment Policies and Practices of your company, usually contained in a Staff Handbook. This is a very good guide in these matters.

The second thing you wanted to know is what kind of legal actions can be taken if an employee feels that he or she is being treated unfairly. Here, you need to determine if you are the only employee that feels unfairly treated. I’m assuming that the employee is beyond the probationary period and can’t be dismissed without due process.

You can either leave the job and find something that meets your standard of fairness, or you can talk with someone at the company about the unfairness being experienced. Talk to someone who can affect your complaints though, don’t just spout off to whoever will listen to you. Oftentimes, such persons are powerless like you, and can do nothing.

The final thing is the rights of the employee within the probationary period. You have very little rights as a probationary employee. If you show up late for work or there are signs that you will not have the chemistry to fit in with the team, for instance, the employer can simply ask you to leave at the end of the probationary period.

The company can dismiss you earlier than that if the infraction is bad enough, and there is no recourse which you can legally take. Within this period, the employer faces no hassle if the company decides to terminate you. That’s just how it is.

The employed person knows this and therefore looks to positively influence and make a good impression on the employer so that at the end of the probationary period, they are confirmed in a permanent position. In this period, taking legal action against the employer would be the last thing on their mind.  


Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of ‘From Problems to Power’ and co-author of ‘Profile of Excellence’.