Tonga Supreme court rejects ex-Leiola supervisor’s wrongful dismissal claim

The Tongan Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a claim of wrongful dismissal brought by a former sales supervisor of Leiola Group Ltd in Vava’u amid an investigation by the company into  a “significant amount of missing stock”.

The supervisor, Semisi Vaitaki, was suspended in June 2014  while an investigation was undertaken and before his employment was advised to be terminated on June 29.

However the Leiola company argued “Vaitaki was initially suspended from his employment while investigations were made into stock variances and that on around 22 July 2014 he voluntarily resigned from his employment”.

The judge, Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen, said: “Mr.  Vaitaki has  failed  to  prove  that  he  was  dismissed    from  his employment with Leiola and his claim must  fail”.

The court was told the Manager of Human Resources and Corporate Services, Viliami Takau, and Mr Jagjeet Chand, the Chief Operations Officer of Leiola, “discovered about TP$5,500 value of stock missing from company’s office in Vava’u”.

Mr. Vaitaki was suspended from his duties on June 20,  2014 while an investigation was undertaken.

Mr Paulsen said: “ it is clear to me  that he was told of the reason for his suspension. He was also told of the approximate value of the missing stock. He did not challenge his suspension”.

The investigation took about three months and although it appeared to be longer that normally expected of such an investigation the court was told Vaitaki had travelled overseas during that period.

On July 18 Takau emailed Mr. Vaitaki and told him that  the  amounts he owed Leiola were $4,122 for stock and $1,298 for sundries.

Takau advised  Vaitaki about the details of the amounts and said: “I’ll write to you on the weekend to let you know the decision regarding your employment”.

However no decision was ever communicated to Mr. Vaitaki about his employment before he emailed Mr. Takau on July 22, 2014 and  advised that he was travelling to the United States, the judgement said.

Vaitaki disputed the amount of the stock variances, but he appeared to accept the amount owing for sundries and said that they would sort the matter out when he returned from his travels, Mr Paulsen said.

Mr. Vaitaki confirmed that he was not told by Mr. Takau that his employment was terminated and he did not advise Mr. Takau or anyone else at Leiola when he would be returning from the United States.

When he returned Vataki did not contact  Mr. Takau or Leiola.

“He said that he opened his mail and saw that there was no contact from the company and he just stayed at home”.

“There was no evidence either of any contact by Mr. Vaitaki’s lawyer with Leiola”, Mr Paulsen said.

“It appears that the first Leiola knew of either Mr. Vaitaki’s return from overseas or his claim to have been wrongfully dismissed was when it was served with these Court proceedings in around June or July 2015

Mr.  Vaitaki  has  failed  to  prove  that  he  was wrongfully dismissed from  his employment and Mr Paulsen dismissed his claim.

Vaitaki was represented in court by Legal Counsel ‘Ofa Pouono and Dana E. Stephenson was acted for the Leiola Company.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news