The Labour Division of the Accra High Court has ordered Movenpick Ambassador Hotel to pay the two years’ salary of an employee it dismissed for allegedly stealing three sachets of Milo.
In a judgement, the court, presided over by Mrs Justice Gifty Dekyem, declared as unlawful the dismissal of Mr Kwame Akuoko Sarpong, a closed circuit television (CCTV) operator and security officer, by the management of the hotel on February 10, 2016.
According to the court, the evidence before it showed that the alleged theft levelled against Mr Sarpong was never proven and yet he was dismissed.
“The court will accordingly hold that the alleged theft of three sachets of milo was not proven before the plaintiff (Sarpong) was dismissed, making the dismissal unlawful,’’ Mrs Justice Dekyem held.
The judgment of the court was the culmination of a suit filed by Mr Sarpong in October 2016, in which he sought damages for his unlawful dismissal.
Apart from the order for Movenpick to pay Mr Sarpong his two years’ salary, the court also ordered the hotel to pay him GH¢5,030.50, which it deducted from his salary on another allegation that he used the hotel’s telephone to make personal calls.
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According to the court, the deductions were unjustifiable and without any basis.
“Defendant (Movenpick) is hereby also ordered to pay plaintiff (Sarpong) interest on GH¢5,030.50 at simple interest at the prevailing commercial bank rate from October 2015 until date of final payment,” Mrs Justice Dekyem ordered.
The court further awarded cost of GH¢5,000 in favour of Mr Sarpong.
Mr Sarpong’s case
Per Mr Sarpong’s testimony during the case, he was employed by Movenpick Hotel on June 3, 2011 as a CCTV operator and was later made a security man on December 16, 2014.
On January 22, 2016, he was at post as a security man when a guest lodging at the hotel approached him for water. He, therefore, went to check the lobby for a beverage attendant to serve the guest, but there was nobody.
On his way back, he met one Andromeda Ofoli Quaye, another security officer of Movenpick, and passed by her.
A few minutes later, he was approached by Noah Ayitey, the Head of Security, who said Quaye had reported that he Sarpong had stolen three sachets of milo from the lobby storeroom.
Mr Sarpong denied the allegation and was subjected to a search and according to him no sachet of milo was found on him.
He told the court that he was queried and he responded by denying the allegation. He was later invited to appear before a disciplinary hearing on charges of stealing three sachets of milo and was subsequently dismissed.
It was Mr Sarpong’s contention that in spite of the fact that Movenpick has many CCTV cameras, the hotel did not show footage of the alleged stealing during the disciplinary committee hearing.
He averred that the alleged theft was never true, was not proven, and, therefore, there was no basis for his dismissal.
In its defence, Movenpick insisted that Mr Sarpong indeed stole the three sachets of milo and that during a search on him the three sachets of milo fell from his jacket.
It called Quaye, Ayitey and Anna-Pearl Nkansah, the Human Resource Manager of the hotel, as witnesses to prove its case.
Movenpick defence fails
In her judgment, however, Mrs Justice Dekyem held that the testimonies and cross examination of the three defence witnesses showed that Quaye, the only person alleged to have seen the alleged theft, was not invited to appear before the disciplinary committee.
“She did not appear before the disciplinary panel to be heard and cross-examined before it concluded that plaintiff (Sarpong) was guilty,’’ she said.
The judge also said Movenpick did not refute assertions by Mr Sarpong’s lawyers that although the basis of their client’s dismissal was on allegation of theft, the disciplinary committee did not even discuss the alleged theft.
“Defendant did not exhibit record of proceedings of the disciplinary hearing to refute plaintiff’s assertion that no such discussion was held,” the judge ruled.
Mrs Justice Dekyem also stated that there were various contradictions in the defence witnesses’ testimonies “which did not make the defendant’s (Movenpick) story credible.”