Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Dismissed and denied justice at the Supreme Court? - JCSA helping fired employee fight to get his job back

Published:Sunday | November 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Grant
Outside the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston.
1
2
3

After 11 years as a clerk at the Supreme Court, Lloyd Smith was fired last year in what he believes was an unfair retaliation to his complaints about the lack of staff evaluation, the constant changing of his duties, and his concerns after being bypassed for promotion.

And Smith is getting the support of the Jamaica Civil Service Association (JCSA), which has taken up his case to right a wrong it believes was carried out by the court administrators who recommended his dismissal to the Services Commission.

"We are aware of Mr Smith's case and we appealed to the level of the Governor General's Privy Council, and it rejected the appeal and didn't say on what grounds," O'Neil Grant, president of the JCSA, told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Why? Because the Public Service Regulations say that if you are a temporary worker you don't need to be given a reason for your dismissal," added Grant.

He said Smith's case is one of at least 300 allegations of unfair dismissal taken to the JCSA annually, but this is one which the JCSA is prepared to take to court.

"We are putting together a brief to engage an attorney on his behalf. We are going to take the privy council and the Government to court to recognise that the client's rights to due process was breached, and that the Government owes him money plus his job back," declared Grant.

Smith has argued that his knowledge of the court system and his vocal defence of his rights put him in conflict with his supervisors.

"Fresh out of HEART in 2006, I was placed at the Supreme Court, in the Common Law Department, by the Ministry of Justice. Initially, it should have been for two weeks, but when a staffer went on leave, I was asked to work for that person, and I was told that they were impressed with my performance," Smith told The Sunday Gleaner.

He said he was later employed as court clerk in the Common Law Department but was not given a job description.

According to Smith, he was told that after three years, he would become a paralegal, but he worked for five years without getting a job evaluation despite constantly asking for one to be done.

"During this period, no one told me I was not doing a good job. In fact, I know I was doing a good job. But to my surprise, I received nothing but failing grades. These were grades for someone who did not know the job. I knew my job and I did it well," he declared.

Smith said he was written to once about punctuality, and was bypassed for promotions, even when vacancies came, and instead asked to act for several different persons.

 

WAS NOT TAKEN KINDLY

 

Upset with the treatment meted out to him, Smith wrote to the Services Commission, the Court Management Systems, the minister of justice and the chief justice, to complain about the conduct of the department and the treatment of staff.

He charged the persons with power at the Supreme Court did not take kindly to him complaining to those in authority and it culminated in his dismissal without cause in March 2017.

Since then, he has been fighting to get back his job, with the rules regarding the termination of a temporary worker in the civil service working against him.

But Grant says the JCSA is adamant that Smith's dismissal was unfair.

"While there was no post, he should have been given his due-process rights, and he could have mounted a proper defence against the allegations against him.

"That means he should have been called to a hearing, whatever evidence would be brought against him (and) he should have been given a chance to defend it. There was no due process and we believe that an injustice was done," said Grant.

He alleged that Smith was given five days to write responses to defend allegations against him, and it should have been 14 days.

Grant said this was pointed out to the local privy council but it was concluded that his response was insufficient for him to keep his job.

"We asked the Services Commission to overturn the dismissal but they denied it. We pointed out that the regulations said the person 'may be dismissed' and not 'shall be dismissed' without a hearing, and discretion should be applied and it was not.

"We also said to them that the collective agreement of 2012-2015 mandated that a hearing was essential, and that was also rejected," Grant stated, as he reiterated that the JCSA's position is that Smith's dismissal was unfair.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com