Banking & Finance |  Oct 13, 2016

Disciplinary action in breach of employees’ rights: HSBC Bank Malta condemned to pay €603,000 to heirs of late employee

A Court has recently ordered HSBC Bank Malta (“the bank”) to pay €603,000 in damages to heirs of late employee after having declared that the disciplinary action taken against said employee was in breach of workers’ rights.

THE CASE

Private clients’ manager, Ms. Johanna Abela, had been indefinitely suspended from the bank on March 2004 and a letter of charge accusing her of gross misconduct was issue on April of the same year.

Upon having been found guilty by an internal disciplinary board, she was downgraded. An internal appeals board validated this decision, changing the downgrade to a disciplinary transfer and final warning.

In July 2015, Ms. Abela filed a writ claiming that both the disciplinary and appeals procedures were fundamentally flawed and breached the principles of natural justice. In fact, as argued by Ms. Abela, she was not allowed to present witnesses or to cross-examine those who testified against her. Additionally, an anonymous document was allegedly used as evidence against her.

In view of the above, Ms. Abela claimed that both the disciplinary and appeals board has failed to act in an impartial, independent manner and therefore asked the Court to declare null and without effect the disciplinary action taken against her.

The bank denied all claims made by Ms. Abela. Ms. Abela died in 2013 and her heirs took over the case.

THE JUDGEMENT

In the final judgement, Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima, has stated that the bank had failed to convince Ms. Abela that the disciplinary and appeals procedures taken against her were fair and without prejudice.

Although the bank had requested that the disciplinary procedure against Ms. Abela be reinitiated instead of having paying damages, the Court has decided that it could not adhere to the bank’s request since she was no longer alive and able to defend herself in new procedures.

Therefore, the Court has condemned the bank to pay €603,000 in damages to heirs of late employee. Said amount covers the wages and commission with costs and interests that Ms. Abela would have received before falling ill.

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