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T&TEC loses worker’s $1m compensation lawsuit

Published: 
Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) seeking to reduce the $1 million in compensation it was ordered to pay to a driver who was unfairly forced to retire on medical grounds after suffering a mild heart attack in 2011.

Delivering an oral decision at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, Appellate judges Allan Mendonca, Peter Rajkumar and Charmaine Pemberton rejected all 22 grounds raised by T&TEC in its appeal against the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU), which represented the worker in the Industrial Court.

The worker’s lawyers requested that his name be withheld over fears that he would be targeted by criminals based on the compensation award.

The commission was challenging a decision by the Industrial Court to award the worker the compensation after ruling that the company had not followed the proper process when it forced him to retire in June 2012.

That court held that the company failed to find an alternative position for the worker, and failed to consult with him or the union before it made its decision.

In its appeal, T&TEC was claiming that the compensation awarded to the worker was too high.

The appeal panel ruled that it could not interfere with the decision as the Industrial Relations Act only permits it to intervene in Industrial Court cases, where that court did not have the jurisdiction to hear a case or an award is obtained by fraud.

The worker began working with the commission as a driver in 1993.

In February 2011, he suffered a blunt chest injury which induced a heart attack. He was forced to take 44 days sick leave before he returned to work to resume his duties.

Later that year, he wrote to the company’s management suggesting that he be transferred to a job in the office to limit the possibility of him suffered another attack while in the field.

Following the suggestion, he was instructed to visit the company’s doctor for a medical assessment.

After the assessment, he was informed that he had to retire. He agreed and received a lump sum payment of $220,839.60 and a monthly pension of $2,822.73.

He solicited the union’s assistance in June 2013, after he went to the National Insurance Board (NIB) to apply for a disability grant and was informed by its doctors that he could not qualify based on his injury.

The union was represented by Lyndon Leu while Keith Scotland represented T&TEC.

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