State to compensate ex-Equal Opportunity Commission CEO for breaches of her rights

Devanty Maraj-Ramdeen

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Devanty Maraj-Ramdeen Image source:

A HIGH Court judge has ordered the State to compensate the former CEO of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) for a breach of the rules of natural justice by the Attorney General (AG) after her contract was not renewed in 2021.

The order was made by Justice Joan Charles, who partly upheld Devanty Dianne Maraj-Ramdeen’s legal challenge against the State. Maraj-Ramdeen’s application for judicial review against the decision of the EOC to seek approval from the AG as a precondition to renewing her contract of employment for three years was denied.

The judge ordered the parties to make further submissions on the issue of costs and damages for the breach of Maraj-Ramdeen’s constitutional rights as she granted declarations that the AG had treated her unfairly, in breach of the rules of natural justice, and infringed her rights to protection of the law by not giving her an opportunity to be heard when the decision was made not to renew her contract.

Maraj-Ramdeen served as CEO of the EOC for nine years, from March 19, 2012-March 18, 2021.

The procedure for the renewal of contracts at the EOC was that a written request would be sent to the AG for his approval for renewal.

In October 2020, she expressed an interest in having her contract renewed. She said the current chairman recommended the renewal.

However, on March 19, 2021, she was told the AG had not approved the renewal and the position was to be re-advertised, On April 7, 2021, she was told she should stop reporting to work.

Testifying for the EOC were the its chairman Ian Roach, permanent secretary in the Ministry of the AG Natasha Barrow and an administrative officer at the commission.

In her ruling, Charles said it was clear that since 2012, the commissioner had entered an agreement with the ministry for the latter for the hiring of staff, including contract workers, so the refusal by the AG – whose ministry hired her – not to renew her contract was not ultra vires.

“The EOC voluntarily chose to use a process for the appointment of its CEO whereby that officer would be employed on contract by the Attorney General.

“...the recommendation (for renewal) from the EOC was just that – a recommendation,” the judge said.

However, she held that Maraj-Ramdeen had been denied the opportunity to be heard before the AG decided not to renew her contract.

“In the circumstances, her right to protection against unfairness by an agent of the State was infringed.”

“In my view, fairness required that she be given an opportunity to put her case for renewal of her contract to the respondent before a final decision was taken on the issue.

“The claimant was the incumbent, holding a very senior managerial position within the commission; she ought to have been given the opportunity to advance reasons why the position should not be advertised, and why, in the interest of the good administration of the EOC continuity of the incumbent was advantageous to the smooth operations of the EOC.”

Charles said the decision not to renew had an adverse effect on Maraj-Ramdeen’s employment status, since she had to re-apply for the position and be subject to an uncertain outcome at the end of this process.

“Both the Attorney General and the EOC clearly contemplated that where a contract was not to be renewed that the incumbent is personally informed of this fact and that reasons be provided for the decision,” the judge said.

Maraj-Ramdeen was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial and Alana Rambarran. Russell Martineau, SC, Dominique Martineau and Marcelle Ferdinand represented the EOC and the AG.


"State to compensate ex-Equal Opportunity Commission CEO for breaches of her rights"

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