By Abednego A. Davis and David S. Menjor
In a rather strange twist of events, following the Labor court ordered closure of the Westwood Corporation on December 15 and its subsequent reopening on orders of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh, Labor Court Judge Comfort Natt has reacted expressing shock and dismay at the action taken by Justice Ja’neh.
The Westwood corporation had been ordered closed in respect of Judge Natt’s decision upholding the August 2 judgment of default rendered by the Hearing Officer at the Ministry of Labor (MOL) , wherein the Westwood Corporation was also held liable for unfair labor practices against one of its employees, Amos Saysay for wrongful dismissal, and subsequently authorized the company to pay US$28, 248.
Judge Natt in a letter to Justice Ja’neh, dated December 29,2017, while confirming that the case was before Justice Ja’neh for review on appeal from the Labor court over which she presides, she was shocked and dismayed to learn that the Westwood offices had been reopened without an official mandate from Justice Ja’neh as would be required by law presumably.
But Justice Ja’neh fired back almost immediately with a letter to Judge Natt written under the signature of his Clerk, Attorney Sam Mamulu. The letter also dated December 29 instructed Judge Natt to adhere to what he said was an Alternate Writ of Prohibition ordering the reopening of the closed Westwood premises pending the hearing of the Writ of Prohibition.
But interestingly, before Justice Ja’neh’s issuance of the Alternative Writ of Prohibition against Judge Natt’s enforcement of her ruling, the Westwood had already reopened its doors to the public in total disregard to the Court’s decision.
Judge Natt letter reads, “It is with disgust and dismay that I write to ascertain as to whether or not you have knowledge of the opening of the offices of Westwood Management which was closed on December 15, 2017 by the Sheriff for their failure to settle Court’s Judgment, which case is presently before you undetermined; neither have you sent me any mandate to have the office opened, but to my surprise, the office was opened without the consent or reference to the Court.”
It further reads, “That according to reliable sources, the locks were broken and the office opened for over a week. That upon the visitation of the Sheriff today, December 29, 2017, it was confirmed that the office had been opened and that the people were going about their daily routine which this Court seriously frowns on, but would like to hear from you as it intends to have the management of Westwood arrested for its gross disrespect and humiliation to this Honorable Court.
When contacted yesterday, Judge Natt said she no longer has authority over the matter, because it was still before Justice Ja’neh as Saysay is yet to receive his benefits as determined by the National Labor Court.
It all started on the 28 of November 2017, when Judge Natt upheld the August 2 judgment of default rendered by the Hearing Officer at the Ministry of Labor (MOL) , wherein the Westwood Corporation was also held liable for unfair labor practices against one of its employees, Amos Saysay for wrongful dismissal. The Court subsequently authorized the company to pay Mr. Saysay the amount of US$28, 248.
The Ministry’s decision was based on what it claimed was the company deliberate refusal and negligence to appear upon several notices of assignment that were duly served on it.
Besides, the company, the court said, rejected the ministry’s decision after they received copy of the ruling on September 3, and announced that they were going to file an Acton for Judicial Review of the ministry’s judgment to the National Labor Court.
According to Mr. Saysay, after announcing the appeal on August 4, Westwood lawyer failed to file for the judicial review in keeping with the statutory period as provided under the law, and did not do so until October 12, 2017, about 72days after the ruling.
According to the Labor law, an aggrieved party is to file his or her appeal for judicial review within 30 days after receiving copy of the judgment, which was served on the company on September 3, that they failed to do.
Judge Natt said, in her ruling that “the ruling of the hearing officer holding the company liable for unfair labor practices perpetuated against Saysay for wrongful dismissal is upheld. It therefore ruled that Saysay be reinstated forthwith with all of its benefits and entitlements appertaining to his status of employment be given him as though he was never dismissed and be paid US$28,248 under the labor law.
Judge Natt also ordered the court to prepare a bill of costs that was served on both parties. The Gongloe and Associates Law Firm signed for the company as legal representative, while the Jones and Jones Law Firm signed for Mr. Saysay and; Judge Nah’ affixed her signature signifying the parties agreement with the Court’s decision.
It was after signing for the bill of cost that the Westwood apparently decided to file before Justice -in-chambers Ja’neh a Writ of Prohibition. As it appears which Justice issued the Alternative Writ but yet failed to serve same on Judge Natt who, according to her letter of December 29 implied that she had not been served copy of the Alternative Writ prior to the reopening of the Westwood offices.
It can however be recalled that following the National Labor Court’s ruling of November 28, 2017, the Westwood corporation in a rather bizarre move, on November 30 wrote Mr. Saysay a leter reinstating him forthwith, and promising in the same breath to give him all benefits and entitlements appertaining to him as an employee as though he was never dismissed.
The Westwood letter reads “In view of the foregoing, the Management of Westwood’s Corporation wishes to accordingly inform that you have been reinstated to your post as Query Director effective Monday December 4, 2017,” the letter signed by the general manager of Westwood, Samuel B. Cooper said.
On the contrary, Saysay told the Daily Observer that Westwood has failed to live up to its commitment as expressed in its November 30, 2017’s letter to him.
“When I went back to work I was denied entry into the fence of the company by the security guys. I contacted management but the response I got was also dismal,” he said.
Saysay blamed the action of the company on Justice Ja’neh for failing to prevail on them to pay him all of his benefits called for by the Court. “Justice Ja’neh is responsible for what is happening to me in this case.
He ordered the reopening of the company’s offices with the hope that they could generate money and pay me but to my disadvantage, I am yet to be listened to anymore,” he noted, adding that Justice Ja’neh’s action only proves that the rule of law is not working in Liberia.