The National Industrial Court has ordered a school, Trinity Model Academy, to pay its former teacher, Mrs Lucy Agabo, N2 million for psychological trauma which resulted from unlawful termination of her employment.
Justice Isaac Essien declared the action of the school as unlawful, null and void, saying it was done in breach of the claimant’s fundamental right to fair hearing.
The court in addition ordered the defendant to pay the claimant N200,000 as cost of action within 30 days.
Earlier, the claimant submitted that she was employed by the defendant as a classroom teacher in September, 2017, and was issued a letter of termination on April 5, 2019, on the grounds of alleged gross misconduct.
She asserted that she never engaged in any act of misconduct and was never issued a query before her termination.
She further submitted that the termination was an attempt to destroy her teaching career which she worked tirelessly to build over the years and to further prejudice her chances of job prospects in the future.
The defendant, however, averred that Mrs Agabo committed gross misconduct, noting that because the appointment of the claimant was temporary, it did not need strict adherence to statutory provisions but from the conditions of service drawn from the instrument of employment.
The counsel to Mrs Agabo argued that the probation period was supposed to be for one academic calendar year, noting that his client had become a permanent staff member from September, 2018, when a new academic session commenced.
The counsel further stated that the claimant was no longer a temporary staff when her appointment was terminated and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought.
After evaluating the submissions of both parties, the court held that the failure of the school to confirm the employment of the claimant after one academic session and continuing to hold her in the employment was nothing but an unfair labour practice.
The court also declared that the claimant was deemed to have been confirmed by operation of the law after one academic session.
Justice Essien equally ruled that the failure of the defendant to issue the claimant a query as provided in the contract of employment which would have afforded her the opportunity to defend the allegation of misconduct made against her was a clear breach of the right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the 1999 constitution (as amended).
He said, “The defendant painted a horrific picture of the claimant as a dangerous person who should not be allowed to go near school children but failed to substantiate the allegation.
“I agree with the claimant that if this termination is allowed to stand, the claimant may have difficulty furthering her career in the future.
“The defendant cannot, by unlawful act, impede the claimant’s right to be gainfully employed in the future.” (NAN)