A clerical officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who sued the State for $167,000 in financial losses after her job was realigned will now have to pay costs, as she has lost her claim.
Theresa Hope had complained she lost out on gratuity, vacation leave entitlement of 75 days and negotiating opportunities when her position was changed.
In an oral ruling after a short virtual trial on Friday, Justice Frank Seepersad dismissed Hope’s claim, agreeing with the State’s contention that she was not entitled to gratuity or any of the benefits she was claiming.
She testified at the trial.
Hope previously worked as a pension and leave preparation officer at the ministry on two three-year contracts from 2008. In 2013, she was put on a month-to-month contract while the ministry waited for approval from the Cabinet to standardise positions.
After the approval was received, Hope was offered the position of business operations assistant I for three years with the same salary of $6,800. This was in 2016.
Hope declined the offer because it was an entry-level position and not in line with her years of service and experience. She continued working in the month-to-month position.
Seepersad said it was clear the functions Hope exercised were clerical and administrative and fell under the general policy intent of the Personnel Department, identified in a 2013 circular memorandum, to realign positions in the public service.
The judge said this decision was for the Chief Personnel Officer, as the ministry was not empowered to offer contracts with gratuity payments.
He said it was well within the remit of the executive to adopt a policy to move away from hiring a vast number of people on a permanent basis by offering contract employment, and this should be understood and appreciated.
“It is part of the administrative authority exercised by the executive. Individual contract-holders must understand that contracts are not specific to them.”
He said the evidence demonstrated that the position of pension and leave preparation officer had been phased out after the 2013 memorandum,and the position was standardised, with the post of business operations officer being the new designation.
“The court can see the rationale in doing so to create a uniformity of positions in various ministries to deal with the unique nuances in respective ministries,” he said, as he held that Hope’s claim was devoid of merit.
She was represented by attorney Nigel Floyd. Attorneys Zara Smith and Nadine Nabbie represented the Attorney General.