HR868: Emancipate me from my Boss ASAP!

In this month of Emancipation and Independence many of us may feel inspired to tell that incompetent, overbearing, micro-managing or abusive boss of ours to ‘gth’. Many of you are working with bosses whose sole purpose in life seems to be to belittle you and make your life a living hell.

Photo: Smithers, release the hounds!
Photo: Smithers, release the hounds!

But before you give your boss the boot, there are a few things to note that might help make your departure beneficial to you.

It is possible to walk off your job, without giving notice, and still claim against your employer for damages on the grounds that you were unlawfully terminated. However, in order to mount such a case you must first prove that your employer’s conduct was so reprehensible that you are entitled to consider your employment terminated.  This is known as constructive dismissal and is a very tricky area of industrial relations as each case is judged on its particular facts.

Although I know Trinidadian bosses can be very creative in finding ways to de-motivate and alienate staff, I chose just a few scenarios which could, depending on all the surrounding circumstances, amount to an unlawful termination by way of constructive dismissal.

(i) If your boss, without warning and without provisions for such changes in your contract, unilaterally cuts your pay, demotes you and/or changes your hours of or place of work;

(ii) If your boss fails to provide you with a safe or suitable place of work;

(iii) If your boss disciplines you in a manner that is disproportionate to the committed wrong;

(iv) If your boss constantly humiliates you in the presence of your colleagues and/or junior staff.

Photo: Who told you that you could breathe?!
Photo: Who told you that you could breathe?!

If the problem you are having with your boss is in fact insurmountable then you are not helpless, workers have power and here are some ways you can use it.

Document the Issue: Write a formal letter of complaint and, in a concise and polite manner, detail the issue which you are currently facing while requesting an improvement. If nothing is done then continue to write. These letters will prove helpful to you should the matter escalate to tribunal stage.

Report the Issue to your Union: If you already belong to a bargaining unit then report the issue to your Union representative. If you do not belong to a Union then you may want to join a Union who can advise you and write to your employer on your behalf. The Industrial Court can only be accessed through a Union so it is wise to begin your relationship with them sooner rather than later.

Work in a Group: If your colleagues are having a similar problem then join together to address it. As a group, it would be easier to approach Management as they would now view your matter as a universal issue rather than as a personality clash.

Request an Impartial Mediator: Workplace mediation is becoming commonplace. If you have a boss who is open to it, then you can sit down with an impartial party and discuss the issues you are having with a view to improvement. If after this your boss returns to their old ways then your case for constructive dismissal is even stronger.

Photo: Okay, that is going to be a problem...
Photo: Okay, that is going to be a problem…

There are of course other options to consider if you’re still not sure you want to be immediately without a paycheck. You can request a transfer to a different department or building or you can access employee counseling which can help change your perspective.

If you have a permanent job and mouths to feed you may want to secure another job first before leaving since securing a settlement from your employer may take some time.

Believe me I know what it’s like, I’ve been there twice in the past couple years. Walking away from your job can be a solitary and frightening journey; but it can also be extremely invigorating.

Some food for thought, in this season of freedom. Power to the People!

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About Gabrielle Gellineau

Gabrielle Gellineau
Gabrielle Gellineau is a Lawyer, Consultant and Writer who has spent the last decade working in labour and other development fields throughout the Caribbean and internationally. She has most recently practiced her craft in the Industrial Court, at CARICOM and at State Enterprises in the entertainment, energy and health sectors. She currently manages her own practice with offices in San Juan and Port of Spain.

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    Ask her what to do if my boss gives himself paid sabbatical.

  2. Office Space lol that movie’s a classic

  3. Can a contract be unilaterally amended? Then its arbitration clause might be unenforceable.unilateral -amendment provisions are common.the contract may have a unilateral-amendment provision

    • I know a contract doesn’t carry more weight than the law of the land though. For instance, if an employer gets employee to agree to take pay below minimum wage that would be unenforceable I think.

  4. Anthony take in this ‍♂‍♂‍♂‍♂

  5. Limitation in high court will be 4 years, at Industrial Court it’s 6 months. Just general time frames if you have an real issue the sooner you act the better.

  6. Excellent advice. Thank you Gabby 🙂

  7. So I can sue parliament & excellent stores? Any statute of limitations?

  8. Lasana, top of the line marketing skills….lol!

  9. I thank Gabrielle Gellineau for her openness in sharing advice with us. Remember everyone that is she a practicing attorney. (Hint hint)
    I will try to puther email address after future posts so those who wish to get more specific advice can arrange to see her. 😉

  10. Hey Savitri. Every case is different Id need all the circumstances before I could say. But the examples I gave are pretty good guidelines of what is unacceptable employer behaviour.

  11. Gabrielle Gellineau, can you share with the rest of us too…all in general terms of course

  12. We need these kinds of advice especially from a local legal point of view. Thank you so much. Very enlightening.

  13. Great tips that could be used worldwide

  14. Good stuff, Gabby. I’m a little too far gone along the employment road to be thinking about firing my boss. However, if you have any suggestions for getting rid of my government, I’m all ears.

  15. Gaiven Clairmont

    Good stuff, well written, easy to digest and interpret, job well done my dear thanks for the knowledge, ‘without knowledge the people shall perish” 🙂

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