Ex-T&TEC constable gets court permission to challenge dismissal

AN estate constable at the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) has received the court's permission to challenge his dismissal after he was found guilty of tampering with a company vehicle.

Justice Joan Charles granted permission to Farad Mohammed and the Estate Police Association (EPA) to pursue a judicial review claim against the one-man disciplinary tribunal and T&TEC.

Mohammed and the EPA were represented by attorneys Kevin Ratiram and Michael Rooplal, who argued the tribunal and the commission had breached the rules of natural justice.

The attorneys argued their client was not allowed to make a plea in mitigation before T&TEC dismissed him and also that it did not abide by the commission’s code of industrial relations practices which set out the penalties for infractions, beginning with suspension for a first offence and dismissal for a second.

In her decision, Charles held she was of the view the application for leave raised arguable grounds with realistic prospects of success on the two grounds.

On the ground that Mohammed should have been given an opportunity to advance mitigating factors before being dismissed, she said before the incident he had an unblemished record.

“The respondents cannot assert, in response to this argument, that the mitigating factors would not have impacted the decision whether the applicant should have been dismissed or a lesser punishment delivered.”

She also said she did not consider the ground relating to the application of the “code” to be completely unmeritorious

“I believe that the issue raised whether the penalty of dismissal is ultra vires the code and therefore unlawful should be reviewed.”

On October 15, 2016, Mohammed was on duty at T&TEC's head office at Frederick Street, Port of Spain, working the 6 am-2 pm shift when he was said to have noticed the emblem on one of the company’s vehicles had been dislodged. His application said he tried to reattach it, but could not. He tried to stick the emblem back on with glue, but was unsuccessful.

He then put the emblem in his pants pocket with the intention of returning later to try to restick it again, but said he forgot. He then went on leave and on his return handed the emblem over to another estate constable.

He was then informed, by letter, of the allegation that he had removed the emblem from the vehicle and was asked to submit a report.

Mohammed did so and was told the commission had initiated an investigation. He was then suspended.

On November 30, he was told to attend a disciplinary hearing to answer the charges of tampering with company property and stealing the emblem.

At the first hearing on December 8, he pleaded not guilty and the theft charge was dropped.

After six hearings, Mohammed was told he had failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for his actions and since it was his duty to ensure the safety and security of the commission’s employees, assets and customers, his actions were found “dishonest (and) unbecoming” and in breach of his contract of employment.

He was also told the commission had lost all confidence in him as an employee and he was dismissed with effect from February 16, 2017.

The commission was represented by attorneys Kirk Bengochea and Nalini Jaggernauth in the matter before Charles, who granted Mohammed leave to pursue a declaration that his dismissal was unlawful and for an order to quash the decision to fire him.

Mohammed is also seeking an order for his reinstatement and for the payment of compensation.

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