Court awards ex-MDEC senior manager RM800,000 over unfair dismissal
FMT Reporters -February 6, 2021 11:26 AM
KUALA LUMPUR: The Industrial Court here has awarded about RM800,000 to a former senior manager of a government-linked company (GLC) over his unfair dismissal.
Court chairman Augustine Anthony said the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn (MDEC) failed to prove poor performance as grounds to remove Thomas Kuruvilla from employment.
Kuruvilla was awarded RM572,208 in back wages and another RM238,420 as compensation in lieu of reinstatement.
Anthony said the award was made after taking into account that Kuruvilla had no post dismissal earnings and he now remained unemployed.
The human resources minister referred the matter to the tribunal after Kuruvilla claimed he was dismissed by MDEC on May 15, 2018.
MDEC is mandated by the government to drive the contribution of the digital economy to the country and build a digital future for the nation.
Kuruvilla, represented by T M Varughese, commenced employment with the company on Sept 17, 2007 as senior manager for Organisation and Methods in the Organisational Development Division.
Until 2014, he consistently achieved his work performance by meeting the company’s expectations.
Anthony said based on all the available evidence, he found that the contents of a letter dated May 15, 2018 on poor performance of Kuruvilla did not reflect the actual circumstances during the second Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).
“This court is not convinced that the claimant was given adequate time to accomplish the tasks assigned to him.
“This court is also not convinced that the company gave the claimant substantial assistance and support during the duration of the PIP,” he added in his 55-page verdict.
Anthony said there was evidence to support that the company, represented by Shariffullah Majeed and Amardeep Singh Toor, was not adhering to its own policy and practice when dealing with the claimant in matters of performance management.
“It is an act of victimisation of the claimant to place him in the PIP without a proper plan and the time frame for achieving the tasks in the PIP reduced,” he said.
He added that it was, therefore, unfair for the company to state that Kuruvilla failed to sufficiently improve his work performance despite the purported opportunity and warning given to him.
Anthony said Kuruvila was frequently transferred in less than four years and this was clear evidence of putting him under extreme pressure.
He said this had also created impediments and frustration in Kuruvilla’s performance.
“The cumulative conduct of the company was such that the claimant was certainly not aided to perform better but instead driven to cause deterioration of his performance,” Anthony said.
Industrial Court chairman Augustine Anthony presided over the case.
During the trial, which began on Feb 28, 2019, MDEC argued that Kuruvilla’s work performance went on a downward spiral after 2015, which forced the organisation to place him under several performance improvement plans (PIP) until 2017.
They claimed that despite all the guidance given, Kuruvilla was said to have not made much improvements, which led to his dismissal in May 2018.
However, Kuruvilla’s defence team countered by saying that since being employed there in 2007 in a senior managerial role, the former was performing well for seven years until a new CEO took over MDEC in September 2014.
Kuruvilla was then transferred to another department in April 2015.
The new CEO, Datuk Yasmin Mahmood, served MDEC for four years before quitting in January 2019.
Kuruvilla said that he was not a lacklustre performer and should have never been placed under the PIPs, adding that in the new department, he was given multiple objectives unrelated to his job scope.
Kuruvilla was also made subordinate to several other managers, given little guidance, and at times placed under humiliating circumstances.
He claimed that it was an attempt by MDEC to terminate his services, by engaging in unfair labour practices to victimise him.
After listening to both counsel’s argument, Anthony decided that Kuruvilla’s was indeed not given enough time to accomplish the tasks assigned to him. The court chairman also found that Kuruvilla was not given enough opportunity to improve and was not given adequate guidance during his PIPs.
It was determined that Kuruvilla’s frequent transfers, in a short period of less than four years after his September 2014 transfer to another department, and his placement under various performance managers was clear evidence of MDEC putting him under extreme pressure and created hurdles to his work performance.
As such, the company’s overall conduct was deemed not to help Kuruvilla’s performance, but was driven to cause its deterioration instead. To this, Anthony ruled that MDEC failed to prove that his dismissal from employment was done with just cause.
Kuruvilla’s awarded sum includes 24 months of back wages totalling RM572,208, and compensation in lieu of reinstatement for 10 months, totalling RM238,420.
On related matter, MDEC chairman Datuk Rais Hussin told FocusM that he will provide an official statement once he had gathered details in regards to the recent court decision and their next course of action.
Last month, MDEC announced a major shake-up of its management team to keep up with the challenges of unprecedented times.
Eight senior executives have left the organisation in stages since last year, prompting many to speculate that was a crisis in MDEC, which the latter have denied.
“Recent hires include executives from the private sector such as IBM, Microsoft, Celcom Bhd, Touch ‘N’ Go, Astro, Edelman, technology start-ups, Pemandu Associates, Media Prima Bhd and more.
“This is an unprecedented time in human history, and we welcome the constructive feedback and support to enable us to lead the digital economy forward to benefit the many,” MDEC was reported saying. – Feb 6, 2021.