The civil court has ordered the state-owned wholesale trader to reinstate a former manager and compensate the unlawfully sacked employee for lost pay, amounting to MVR1.4million (US$90,921).
The State Trading Organisation dismissed Ashraf Ali, then-general manager of the administrative department, on December 4, 2013 after the company’s board decided to dissolve his department and merge it with the human resources department.
Ashraf’s lawyer Ibrahim Riffath told The Maldives Independent that the civil court had overturned an Employment Tribunal ruling in favour of STO.
The civil court ruled on May 8 that Ashraf was deprived of legal protection and basic rights assured by the constitution, the Employment Act, and the International Labour Organisation’s Termination of Employment Convention 1982.
The court also referred to a High Court precedent that requires employers to ensure both procedural fairness and substantial fairness in dismissals.
STO was ordered to provide backpay from December 2013 to May 2016 within 15 days. However, the court rejected his claim for nominal damages.
Ashraf told The Maldives Independent that he hoped STO would abide by the civil court judgment.
“They have not yet offered me any position but I hope that they would reinstate me and pay back the salaries,” he said.
Ashraf had worked at STO for 20 years.
During the trial, STO’s lawyers had argued that Ashraf’s post was made redundant in late 2013, prompted by the company’s poor financial situation and bleak economic outlook.
But the civil court judgment noted that STO had hired new employees during all four quarters of 2013. A day after Ashraf was fired, the number of department heads was increased from 13 to 15. The company’s dividend payout also increased throughout the year.
The state-owned company did not give notice to Ashraf or publicly announce redundancies, the judgement added.
STO’s employment handbook also requires the company to offer employees made redundant a position in a different department.
Riffath meanwhile encouraged workers to challenge unfair dismissals.
“However big the company may be, the rights of its employees are not small matters. Employees need to fight for their rights. I think Ashraf’s case is a classic example,” he said.
In December, the Employment Tibunal had ordered the defence ministry to reinstate eight aviation security officers who were sacked in May last year.
The government had cited loss of confidence in dismissing the eight officers, but the tribunal ruled they were dismissed without due process and that the government was unable to prove that posed a threat to national security.