Wed | Nov 30, 2022

Vindication as hotel to pay suspended worker over unproven fraud claims

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2022 | 12:14 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Marlon McLeod
Marlon McLeod

Six years after encountering challenges to get Spanish hotel chain Iberostar to pay for wrongful suspension stemming from alleged fraudulent on-the-job activities, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) has ‘vindicated’ Marlon McLeod. On Wednesday...

Six years after encountering challenges to get Spanish hotel chain Iberostar to pay for wrongful suspension stemming from alleged fraudulent on-the-job activities, the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) has ‘vindicated’ Marlon McLeod.

On Wednesday, the Errol Miller-chaired tribunal ruled that the former hotel worker receive all unpaid wages, allowances and benefits, including vacation leave for the periods February 2, 2016 to January 13, 2020, taking into consideration all periodic increases.

The 32-year-old Trelawny resident, who was employed as assistant public relations manager at Iberostar Rose Hall and Spa Resort in St James, was suspended after the hotel wrote to him indicating that it had received reports “regarding an alleged incident of fraud” on the property.

He said he was told that he would be contacted within 14 days after the February 2, 2016 dated letter and advised of the next step.

On February 17, the hotel wrote him saying further information was submitted to its HR Department regarding an alleged breach of company policy and that his suspension would be extended pending further investigation.

McLeod told the tribunal that the outcome of that investigation was never communicated to him and that he had not been required to participate in any probe.

He said several attempts to get an update from the hotel proved futile.

As a result, he hired attorney Lorenzo Eccleston, who wrote enquiring about the status of the investigation.

The hotel, through law firm Myers, Fletcher & Gordon, wrote back on June 20 noting that McLeod was among a group of persons suspected of financial impropriety and was duly sent on administrative leave.

It said that “unfortunately” investigations into financial matters were lengthy and that McLeod would be informed of his employment status shortly.

In November of that year, the hotel’s lawyers wrote again, this time accusing McLeod of refusing to cooperate with the investigation and resisting attempts to be interviewed by lawmen.

The tribunal was told that statements from a guest and another accused had implicated him in the fraud scheme.

A months-long investigation by his attorney revealed that that assertion was untrue, according to testimonies contained in the 10-page judgment.

The Office of the Police Commissioner had also reportedly provided a June 9, 2017 letter indicating that there was no ongoing investigation involving McLeod but that the other accused was charged with obtaining money by false pretence and attempted larceny.

Those charges were later dismissed.

In January 2020, the hotel lifted the suspension but then presented McLeod with a redundancy letter, which he refused to accept.

The matter was taken to the IDT where the hotel’s attorneys did not present any evidence or cross-examine the witness.

It said that this denied the panel the opportunity of considering evidence from both parties in arriving at a decision.

It said that, since no evidence had been provided to incriminate McLeod, he should have been paid for the years he had been on suspension, given that the hotel eventually lifted the suspension and he rejected the redundancy letter.

“There was no further evidence that the hotel did more in that regard after he did not accept the letter.

“It would, therefore, suggest that the status quo as it relates to Mr McLeod’s employment was fully restored effective January 13, 2020, and that he continues to be an employee of the hotel,” the tribunal said in its analysis.

Gavin Goffe, the attorney who represented the hotel, declined to comment on the judgment when contacted by The Gleaner.

Eccleston told The Gleaner that the ordeal had been challenging for his client, who was dragged through the mud in his quest for justice.

“It was very painful for him because it was six years of trying. Up to now, he hasn’t even had a hearing. So many things have happened; so many things had gone wrong,” he said.

“There were times where, while I’m motivating Mr McLeod, I’m wondering ‘when is this going to come to an end? When are we going to get the victory?’ ”

McLeod said he was grateful to God and his attorney.

“I’m just happy that we are here. This was a journey of justice and truth,” he said.

kimone.francis@gleanerjm.com