National Heritage Foundation must pay manager’s salaries

PHILIPSBURG--The Judge in the Court of First Instance on Friday has ordered St. Maarten Heritage Foundation to pay St. Maarten Museum’s manager her full wages until the labour agreement has been legally terminated.
 
Charlene Baptiste-Gumbs had filed an injunction on May 18. The Heritage Foundation had terminated their sole employee as per December 1, 2017.
 
St. Maarten Museum in Philipsburg was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017. Baptiste, who was employed as manager since October 1, 2014, received her due wages until December 2017.
 
On October 11, 2017, her employer sent her a letter, which she claimed she had never received, in which she was informed that her employer had attempted to get in contact with her but to no avail. The labour agreement was to be terminated as per December 1, 2017, as exploitation of the Museum had become impossible as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but she would receive two months wages. Baptiste would be exempted from work and was to return her employer’s belongings, it was stated in the letter
 
Parties met October 13, 2017, but the talks did not lead to any results. Five days later, Baptiste filed a complaint with the Labour Office in which she stated that she had wanted to return to work on October 16, 2017, but that she could not enter the Museum as the locks on the door had been changed.
 
In summary proceedings the employee requested full payment of her wages from December 2017, with a legal increase and with interest. The employer called on the Court to reject these claims.
 
The Court arrived at the conclusion that the labour agreement was not legally terminated as the Secretary General of Labour Affairs had not given permission for dissolution.
 
Furthermore, the Judge also established that the Heritage Foundation had not wanted Baptiste to resume her duties, but that she had made herself available.
 
“It has been the employer’s own choice not to call the employee in for work. The employer sat still but the employee cannot be blamed for this,” the Judge stated in the verdict.
 
The Heritage Foundation’s statement that granting the wage claim would lead to bankruptcy was deemed invalid and should not lead to rejection of the claim, the Court stated.
 
The Foundation had also accused the employee of financial mismanagement as she allegedly had used government subsidy to pay out her wages. But this argument also didn’t go in the Foundation’s favour.
 
In case of mismanagement, the employee should have been dismissed immediately, the labour agreement should have been terminated, or a request for dismissal should have been submitted to a Judge, the Court stated.
 
The Heritage Foundation was ordered to pay Baptiste’s salaries from December 1, 2017, until the legal termination of the labour agreement, with legal interest and legal increases of up to 10 per cent. The Foundation was also ordered to pay the legal costs of the procedure.
 
The Daily Herald

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