16 Dec Afran -V- SG-SSB Ltd (J4/71/2018)  Ghasc 15 (21 March 2019)
“Wrongful dismissal or unfair termination? Distinct causes of action and thresholds exist under the statute for challenging termination of employment.”
The Plaintiff was the Deputy Branch Manager of the Defendant bank. The Plaintiff was presented with two transfer request letters from a corporate accountholder of the Defendant, for the transfer of sums of money to the accountholder’s client. The Plaintiff signed against the signatures on the transfer request letters without following due process and forwarded them to the International Business Centre (IBC) of the Defendant bank. The sums were duly transferred to the named beneficiary.
It was later discovered that the signature on the transfer request letters was forged and the Defendant bank could not recover the amounts transferred. On the basis that the Plaintiff acted negligently, causing loss to his employer, the Defendant bank terminated the employment of the Plaintiff.
The Plaintiff sued the Defendant for wrongful termination of employment the trial High Court, however, held that Plaintiff’s employment had been unfairly terminated. By appellate ruling, the Court of Appeal held that the employment of the Plaintiff had not been terminated unlawfully or wrongfully as he had been negligent in the performance of his duty. Further appeal solidified that,
“unfair termination” is a creature of statute under the Labour Act, and distinct from the concept of “wrongful dismissal/termination.” Therefore, as the Plaintiff has sued for “wrongful dismissal”, the High Court and could not have rightfully held that Plaintiff’s employment had been unfairly terminated pursuant to the Labour Act.
Insight: There are distinctions between the causes of action available for challenging termination of employment under the Labour Act. Pursuant to the Act, an employee may bring an action under either wrongful dismissal or unfair termination. Termination in specific circumstances referred to under the Act (i.e. temporary illness, discrimination, retaliation, etc.) amounts to unfair termination. In instances where employment is terminated without due notice or payment in lieu, an employee may bring an action for wrongful dismissal.