Summary Dismissal- Dickson Jere


Summary Dismissal
By Dickson Jere

The assistant shop manager at Food Lovers Market was instantly dismissed for alleged unauthorized disclosure of company information. Since the offence was punishable by summary dismissal, he was not formally charged or made to appear before the disciplinary committee but was fired instantly.

He sued the company in the High Court. His argument was primarily that he was not accorded an opportunity to be heard and that he did not commit the said offence.

The High Court ruled in his favour and awarded him 24 months of his salaries as damages, which is way beyond normal damages awarded in employment cases. The reason for the huge damages was that finding jobs was difficult in Zambia.

Food Lovers Market appealed against the Judgement in the Court of Appeal and the three-member panel of judges had to decide on what summary dismissal means and the procedures to be followed by the company in summary dismissal cases.

“Summary dismissal should therefore, be understood to refer to the power bestowed upon the employer to instantly dismiss an employee following adherence to the disciplinary process as set out in the employer’s disciplinary code or rules,” the Court ruled, which comprised of Judges Chashi, Siavwapa and Banda-Bobo.

“Once this procedure has been followed there is no requirement for the employer to give notice or payment in lieu of notice,” the panel opined, adding that an employee does not need to be given notice (common three months) when he has committed an offence punishable by summary dismissal.

However, when the employee has admitted committing the offence, there is no need to follow the entire disciplinary process. In this case, the manager had denied wrongdoing and therefore should have been subjected to the due process.

The Judges added that the “absence of a formal charge and opportunity to be heard” was not accorded to the dismissed manager and therefore there was no reason to disagree with the High Court.

On the 24 months salaries award for damages, the Court of Appeal stated as follows;

“We are satisfied that this was an appropriate case for the learned judge to depart from normal measure of damages and the award of 24 months salaries is not excessive….” The Judges said.

This is a must read case for Human Resource and Industrial Psychology Practitioners as well as Employment and Labour Relations lawyers and students.

Citation- Emporium Fresh Foods Limited (Food Lovers Market) and Another v Kapya Chisanga- Appeal No. 44 of 2021 (Judgment delivered last month).

Note that this legal commentary is for intellectual and academic discussion. For legal opinion on the subject matter, seek legal advice from your lawyer.


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