Tribunal upholds dismissal of airport staff over Facebook post

Tribunal upholds dismissal of airport staff over Facebook post
October 29 17:00 2017

The Employment Tribunal has ruled that the state-owned airport company’s dismissal of an employee for sharing an anti-government Facebook post was fair and legal.

Ismail Sivaan, a driver at the Maldives Airports Company Ltd, which manages the main international airport, was sacked in May following an anonymous complaint about third-party content on his personal Facebook account.

“It was a political statement, or rather a sarcastic statement towards the current president. It was in the format of a prayer wishing for the removal of the current president [Abdulla Yameen],” Sivaan told the Maldives Independent.

Sivaan, who worked at MACL for more than 10 years, shared the post outside of work hours at his home. But he was accused of violating disciplinary policy by “dishonouring the company’s name and image or acting in a manner that may affect the unity of employees”.

After hearing the unfair dismissal complaint, tribunal member Aishath Fizleen decided Thursday there was “no legal basis” to order MACL to reinstate Sivaan and provide compensation.

According to the ruling, Sivaan had confessed to “making a prayer for the destruction of an enemy on social media, which is an act contravening the employment agreement”.

Sivaan said he removed the post and issued a statement of apology but was kept under suspension before being sacked.

“I was not aware that my conduct breached any company policies, but I removed the post when the company disapproved,” he said.

“Then they sent me a written termination notice by email, but that lacks details and does not state a clear reason for dismissal.”

Sivaan said he plans to appeal the tribunal decision at the High Court.

“MACL referred to a vaguely worded clause 4.6 of the policy and we believe that the company’s response was not proportionate. The employer policy should not extend to personal social media accounts and the reason for dismissal must be clearly stated.”

An ambulance driver from the island of Milandhoo in Shaviyani atoll was fired in late February over a Facebook post deemed to be disrespectful towards the first couple.

Following the ruling coalition’s heavy losses in the May 6 local council elections, lawmakers from the Progressive Party of Maldives reportedly complained to Yameen about civil servants who were openly critical of the government.

Several lawmakers told Mihaaru that the president was urged to take action.

“For example, when a nurse or a teacher openly raises her voice against the government, it is questionable whether she could provide a good service. So the MPs had such concerns,” an unnamed lawmaker was quoted as saying.

In late May, the education ministry suspended a school teacher from the island of Kanduhulhudhoo in Gaafu Alif atoll over a poem deemed offensive towards First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim.

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