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Sandy Lane Hotel victorious at CCJ

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Fri Apr 12, 2013

by D’Andra Lewars, Norman Manley Law School

In a recent case before the Caribbean Court of Justice, Ms. Brigitte Laurayne claimed that her former employer, the Sandy Lane Hotel of Barbados wanted to change most of her work duties by hiring an assistant. This, she said, meant that she was being demoted and therefore it was unreasonable for her to continue working at the hotel. Ms Laurayne first took her case to the Magistrate’s Court in Barbados, where she lost. However, when she appealed to the Barbados Court of Appeal, she won and received an award of damages. The hotel then appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice.{{more}}

The judges at the CCJ recognized that an employer, when operating a business, will have to make changes at times. This, however, does not mean that he can change the duties and terms of work to which an employee initially agreed. Therefore, to strike a balance between these two concerns, the judges proposed to: (1) analyze the employment contract, (2) look at the changes the employer proposed to make and (3) determine whether the changes were so different from the terms of work that no reasonable person would continue to work for that employer.

There was no written contract between Sandy Lane and Ms Laurayne. So the Court looked at her position as the director of Leisure and Spa reporting directly to the general manager. Next, they looked at whether the changes to her duties were so excessive that she could no longer be said to be doing what she was hired to do. They noted that the hotel wanted to hire an assistant to help her by relieving the “hands-on work” and to improve the facilities at the hotel. The hotel was not proposing to change her salary, benefits, job responsibilities, title or position. Furthermore, Ms Laurayne never complained about having two other assistants who helped alleviate her work-related stress. So, why not agree to hire a third? All these facts made it clear that the hotel proposed no changes that would make it unreasonable for Ms Laurayne to continue working.

Therefore, the Court found in favour of the Sandy Lane Hotel and awarded costs to the hotel. Ms Laurayne agreed with the hotel on the amount of costs in the sum of $82,500 (BD).

This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at http://www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2013-CCJ-1-AJ1.pdf

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