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Nicholls wins appeal – Eustace given one month to pay up

Nicholls wins appeal – Eustace given one month to pay up


The Appeals Tribunal of the Department of Labour has upheld the ruling of the Hearing Officer, and given Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace one month to pay compensation to his former secretary Rishatha Nicholls.{{more}}

In a letter dated March 14, 2014 to the Minister of Labour, Tribunal chairman Benson Plaugh-Feddows said the Tribunal unanimously agreed that the Hearing Officer’s decision of September 30, 2013, in favour of Nicholls, had been correct.

“… based on the evidence put forward, the summary dismissal of Mrs. Rishatha Nicholls was not justified pursuant to sections 9 (2) (a) or any other section of the Protection of Employment Act, 2003,“ the letter said.

The Tribunal therefore upheld the ruling of hearing officer Cecil M. John that Eustace compensate Nicholls $16,199.99 for her 12 years of service, within one month of receiving the ruling of the Tribunal.

The other members of the Tribunal were president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Andrew Woodroffe and president of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union Oswald Robinson.

Nicholls and her former boss appeared before the Tribunal on March 6, 2014. Eustace was represented by lawyers Bertram E. Commissiong QC, Mira E. Commissiong and Maia Eustace, while social commentator Frank da Silva was in attendance as a moral supporter of Nicholls.

Nicholls, who had been employed as secretary to the Leader of the Opposition since August 1, 2001, was dismissed on March 28, 2013, for, according to her termination letter, failure to prepare the Vote Book, loss of confidence by the Opposition Leader in her, and for using part of contributions donated to Elwardo Lynch “for [her] own purposes.”

“I have now decided that this state of affairs cannot continue. I hereby terminate your employment as Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition with immediate effect for cause. You will be paid one month’s salary in lieu of notice and your leave entitlement,” the dismissal letter, signed by Eustace said.

Nicholls took the matter to the Department of Labour, and on September 26, 2013, hearing officer Cecil John adjudicated the dispute. Nicholls represented herself, while Eustace was accompanied to the hearing by counsel Bertram Commissiong QC and advisor and vice president of the New Democratic Party St Claire Leacock.

Eustace’s appeal of the ruling of the hearing officer was contained in a 33-point submission.