The Department of Education has been ordered to pay compensation to the amount of R252 182.25 for the unfair suspension of an official from Upington by June 15.
THE DEPARTMENT of Education has been ordered to pay compensation to the amount of R252 182.25 for the unfair suspension of an official from Upington by June 15.
The General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) in an arbitration award dated April 28 stated that the applicant LL Tutani-Jara was suspended on allegations of misconduct in January 2020.
In April it was noted that during the course of the investigation Tutani-Jara was still suspended and that the disciplinary inquiry had not taken place yet.
The Department of Education agreed to uplift the suspension but refused to pay the compensation equivalent to six months’ salary.
Tutani-Jara was employed by the Department of Education since October 2012 and currently occupies a position of chief personnel officer at the human resources unit.
She was initially employed as a labour relations officer but was transferred after she was involved in a car accident and was not able to travel in accordance with the demands of the position.
She testified that her reputation had been “dented beyond repair”.
She told the GPSSBC that she was ridiculed by her peers following her suspension.
“When she meets her colleagues in town, they look at her as if she has contagious disease. Those who used to respect her have changed their attitude towards her. All these changes in attitude occurred as the result of her being placed on the precautionary suspension.”
She related that the prolonged precautionary suspension denied her the opportunity for assessment where she lost out on possible grade progressions and bonuses between 2019 and 2021.
“As a result of the non assessment she remained stagnant to the same grade and or notch.
“Due to the financial constraints, she was forced to downgrade her medical aid. Her health deteriorated because she could no longer consult the doctors that she used to. She was forced to use traditional healers’ medication and advice and as a result her life deteriorated.”
National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) representative JP du Pokoy explained that the suspension was spurred on by a personal vendetta against Tutani-Jara’s supervisor.
Acting deputy director of corporate service at the Department of Education BI Mathupi argued that the applicant failed to prove that the compensation ought to be awarded.
He maintained that the applicant did not produce facts, “only observations, opinions and rumours that could not be proven” .
Mathupi advised that the matter be dismissed without considering the option of compensation.
The GPSSBC commissioner Dr GMP Pholo pointed out that the department did not contest the unfairness of the suspension.
“If the department is unable to prove that the suspension was fair then it can only be safe to conclude that the suspension was unfair.”
He indicated that while Tutani-Jara was suspended with pay there was a detrimental impact attached to every suspension including prejudice to reputation and job security.
“The evidence of the applicant with regard to her impacted reputation by colleagues and community members as the result of suspension was not contradicted at all.”
Pholo added that Tutani-Jara was denied an opportunity to expand her career for two consecutive years due to her suspension.
“While pay progressions and bonuses are not automatically awarded, the applicant would automatically not qualify as she was not assessed. Under these circumstances, the career growth of the applicant was placed on ice for two consecutive years.
“It is imperative that caution be taken when instituting the suspension. It is unfortunate that no caution was applied when the applicant was suspended.”
He added that the suspension that was prolonged for 15 months, was uplifted without an investigation report to prove or disprove the allegations, issuing of charges and/or dismissing the allegations against the applicant, and/or justifying the fairness of the suspension, could “only mean the abuse of power.”
Pholo pointed out that an employee should not be suspended unless there was a prima facie reason to believe that the employee had committed serious
misconduct and there was an objectively justifiable reason for excluding the employee from the workplace.
He was unable to pinpoint any objective reasons for the suspension.
“The suspension was unnecessarily prolonged and unfair. Tutani-Jara must be compensated for the period not exceeding nine months salary.
“The amount for compensation be R252 182.25, and the amount must be paid by the June 15.”