Tue | Apr 7, 2020

BOJ to pay $50m for unjust dismissal

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2020 | 12:24 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

Former head of Strategic Planning and Project Management Centre at the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), Karim Kiffin, who was dismissed without cause in 2018 by the central bank, received a $50.2-million award yesterday by a panel of three adjudicators at the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) who concluded that he was “unjustifiably dismissed”.

The sum, while deemed to be one of the higher awards handed down by the tribunal, was $63 million less than the amount claimed by Kiffin but $39 million more than the initial sum the bank said he should be paid if an award were to be made on the basis of unfair dismissal.

Three panellists at the IDT heard 14 exhaustive submissions over a seven-month period in 2019 from the BOJ, represented by Patrick Foster, QC, while Kiffin was represented by Lambert Brown, industrial relations consultant and attorneys-at-law Ronald Young and Natalia Casado Desulme of YOUNG LAW.

Kiffin told The Gleaner yesterday that his elderly mother would be relieved to hear that the tribunal ruled in his favour. “I believe that she will cry when I tell her,” Kiffin said.

“A weight has been lifted off his shoulder,” said Young, with Desulme adding that “we look forward to seeing how Mr Kiffin will rise out of the ashes”.

Attorney: Former central bank employee 'fought for rights'

Young told The Gleaner yesterday that while the sum awarded was important, it was secondary to the fact that Kiffin felt he was unjustifiably dismissed “after having flown to Jamaica with his elderly sick mother to take up a position with the Bank of Jamaica” and was unceremoniously dismissed even though his performance and conduct were impeccable.

“He fought for his rights and achieved it, and that is important because it means that employers everywhere and employees now understand even more than before their rights and that justice will be served,” Young asserted.

Desulme argued that Kiffin’s prospects of obtaining a new job were blighted after his dismissal. “This obviously affected Mr Kiffin’s ability to get any other future employment. This judgment is not even about the $50 million … . It is about the ability for him to redeem his name and the fact that he is guilty of absolutely nothing but being a hard, honest-working employee,” she maintained.

While acknowledging that the panellists were fair and that their experience was evident based on the overall findings, Young said he disagreed with one aspect of their conclusions.

The tribunal said that it accepted the evidence of the central bank that Kiffin was not eligible for some of the benefits sought, as these benefits were reimbursable and are only payable on the basis of actual invoices or receipts received. Young said that this finding was arguable, but disputed the tribunal’s conclusion that “other allowances are only applicable to employees after a year of permanent services”.

Commenting on the award, Foster said it was “reasonable given the evidence” that was presented. However, he noted that the tribunal “rejected major elements” of Kiffin’s claim.

Foster reasoned that the $113-million claim was “unreasonable and excessive and I think the panel handed down a decision that seems more fair and consistent with the evidence”.

“He claimed a lot of reimbursable expenses which were so unconscionable because he was claiming reimbursable for things that you only get money for when you incur the expense,”he said.

 

IDT Findings

 

• Based on the facts gleaned, the tribunal rejects the assertion by the bank that Mr Kiffin’s position was terminated owing to a restructuring exercise

• The undisputed evidence before the tribunal is that there were two meetings between Livingstone Morrison (former deputy BOJ governor) and Kiffin. No other member of staff was present. The tribunal finds it quite interesting that Morrison, the person who Kiffin testified informed him in the meeting on May 28, 2018, that he wished to activate the ‘separation clause’ and provide him with 30 days’ notice to terminate his contract of employment, was not called as a witness neither was Calvin Brown, divisional chief, human resource division, the person who terminated Kiffin’s employment.

• Kiffin was not afforded the dignity he had a right to.

• The tribunal concluded based on the evidence submitted that Kiffin was unjustifiably dismissed.