Employee loses $1m lawsuit against TSTT
A Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT) payroll clerk has lost her almost $1 million lawsuit against her employer, over it reneging on an offer of early retirement.
Delivering an oral judgement, during a virtual hearing yesterday, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad dismissed the breach of contract case brought by Brenda Mark against the State-owned telecommunications provider.
Seepersad noted that while the company made an offer of voluntary enhanced early retirement in April 2014, which was accepted by Mark, the process to form a binding contractual agreement between the two parties was far from complete.
Seepersad noted that the prospectus document issued to employees, in which the offer was made, included a 12 step process to complete before separation.
Mark only completed the first stage of the process by accepting the offer, according to Seepersad.
Seepersad also stated that the document included a clause, which stated that the company had the right to reject applications based on the unique competencies of employees and the human resource needs of their department at the time.
Seepersad noted that Mark appeared to recognise the policy as she remains employed with the company, up to today.
Mark’s decision to pursue the case will cost her now as Seepersad ordered that she pay the company almost $67,000 for the legal costs it incurred in defending the lawsuit.
TSTT’s lawyer Sashi Indarsingh attempted to seek over $100,000 in legal costs based on the quantity of compensation being sought by Mark, but Mark’s attorney Martin George suggested that it should be reduced as his client was forthright in the case and admitted that she was not entitled to her full pension payments before she turns 60, as initially claimed in the lawsuit.
Seepersad agreed, reduced the sum and gave Mark 28 days in which to pay.
According to her court filings, Mark, who has been employed by TSTT since 1984, was among a group of employees who were offered early retirement in April 2014.
Mark, who was 52-years-old at the time, signed up and participated in financial counselling as offered under the plan.
However, she eventually filed the lawsuit after she received no further response.
Through the lawsuit, Mark was seeking $417,907.20, which represents the lump sum she would have received under the proposed plan. She was also seeking $261,165.88, which represents the pension lump sum she was set to receive.
Mark’s lawsuit also included a claim for the reduced monthly pension payments of $5,440.96, which she claimed she would have received between 2014 and 2019 when she filed the lawsuit.
In defence of the claim, TSTT claimed that it was misconceived.
It also admitted that its decision to withdraw the offer was based on the fact that the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) challenged the early retirement offers made by the company in the Industrial Court.
Mark was also represented by Keshavi Khoorban.
By: Derek Achong