Labor

James (names have been changed), and employee for an international NGO operating in the southeast, came to the JPC for advice when his contract was terminated. He had worked for the NGO for one year without a contract, and then 20 months with an indefinite term contract. He had heard of the reputation of the JPC for dealing with labor and human rights issues, although he had never used them. James contacted the JPC for, in his words, “justice to prevail.”

The JPC monitors upon hearing the details of the case, advised James to speak to the Labor Commissioner. When his employment ended, his boss had accused him of theft, and claimed to have witnesses. James denied these allegations, and after two days his boss retracted them, stating that she was not firing him, but that his contract with the NGO had ended. James accepted this, but requested his severance pay and a letter of recommendation. He believed he was owed this, though he did not know the legal specifics. The Labor Commissioner informed him that if your contract is terminated without cause, you have to be notified one month in advance or paid one month’s salary as severance pay. Also, that you are owed one and a half month’s salary for every year for which you were employed. The labor commissioner called a meeting between James and the NGO boss. During this meeting the boss did not restate the allegation, but claimed that the contract had ended without cause. The Labor Commissioner issued a ruling that called for the NGO to give James his severance pay and the letter. The NGO boss refused to pay, and James informed both the JPC and the labor commissioner of this development. The JPC monitors referred James to the legal aid lawyer, John Gbessio, who told him that once the deliberations with the labor commissioner were finished, he could take the case to court with the help of the JPC. As time went on and the NGO still refused to pay, James, with the help of Gbessio, took a copy of the Labor Commissioner’s ruling to the Circuit Court Judge. The Judge invited the NGO and James to a conference the next day. The NGO still refused to pay the money. The Judge then gave the NGO two days to pay the money or return with a lawyer. Two days later I witnessed representatives of the NGO sign documents and hand over the payment of $669 US, of which $534 US was paid to James after taxes were deducted. This payment included one month’s salary, the one and a half month’s benefit and leave pay of 12 days at a rate of 8 dollars a day that James had not taken. The Labor Commissioner promised to continue to follow-up the case.

Although the JPC was not directly involved in the resolution of this case, James called them his guardians. Caroline, the JPC Monitor involved, was patient, and advised James not to take the law into his own hands. James says that now he knows to “contact the rightful authorities instead of doing his own thing”. In this future he says that he will always contact the JPC to resolve conflicts since they are “always on our side to advocate for us.” By the time the case was resolved, James was well versed in labor law and could cite the appropriate laws and explain how they related to his case.

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