Michel Williams has lost yet another battle with his former employer, the National Bank of Dominica (NBD), in a 2-1 dissenting judgement by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in favor of the bank.
Williams had challenged the bank in court after he was dismissed but Justice Brian Cottle had intitially thrown out the case and slapped him with a hefty fine instead.
In December 2008, Williams signed a contract with the bank for the post of Assistant General Manager for three years, however in a letter dated March 31, 2009 he was dismissed from his post with immediate effect. Williams, the bank claimed was terminated under Clause 7 (3) of his contract “by no fault of either party.”
The matter was taken to court and in a seven-page judgment handed down on February 3, 2011 Justice Cottle wrote, “In this case, the Claimant sought, inter alia special damages in the sum of EC$2,113,114.00. I take this to be the value of the claim. I award the defendant (NBD) prescribed cost on this amount. If my arithmetic is correct, this amounts to EC$99,894.42.”
Cottle went on to say that in the case presented the contractual provision was clear. “Clause 7 (3) deals with termination either for reasonable cause or by no fault of either party. This must mean termination without cause,” the Judge stated.
However, Williams took the matter to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and in its just released ruling, two of the court’s justices, Justice of Appeal Pereira and Ag. Justice of Appeal, Michel, stated that the parties, having executed the agreement with the expression ‘by no fault of either party’, intended it to mean something different from ‘reasonable cause’, and to provide an additional basis for termination of the agreement, distinctly different from the basis of ‘reasonable cause.’
“Further, given all the eventualities for termination specifically covered in the agreement, the expression ‘by no fault of either party’ could only mean termination ‘without cause’. The learned judge was therefore correct in holding that the said termination provision formulation ‘with reasonable cause or by no fault of either party’ permitted the bank to dismiss Mr. Williams without cause. By extension, the trial judge was also correct when he found that the bank terminated the services of Mr. Williams on a ground that was disclosed or provided for in the said agreement. Accordingly, the employment of Mr. Williams was not terminated in breach of clause 7(3) of the said agreement,” Pereira and Michel wrote.
But Chief Justice Rawlins dissented and ruled that Williams was “wrongfully dismissed.”
“Inasmuch as the trial judge dismissed the claim, it was not necessary for him to assess damages. Having allowed the appeal, however, and having found, in effect, that the employment of Mr. Williams was wrongfully terminated by the Bank, I would remit the case to the High Court for damages for wrongful dismissal to be assessed in the normal way. It follows from the foregoing findings that, in effect, the services of Mr. Williams were terminated in breach of their 2008 employment agreement between him and the Bank. Accordingly he was wrongfully dismissed,” Rawlins wrote.
Lawyers for Williams have indicated that they will take the matter to the Privy Council for a final determination.