Former Belize Sugar Industries Limited employee loses wrongful termination case
Posted: Friday, December 18th, 2015. 1:33 p.m. CST
By BMG Staff: Appearing at work intoxicated may not only have cost Julio Ramon Gongora, Junior, his job, but damages for what he claimed was wrongful dismissal.
The former electrical and instrumental technician for Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) lost his case at the Supreme Court. In her ruling, Justice Michelle Arana found on a balance of probabilities that Gongora showed up to work in March of 2012 looking intoxicated, a violation of BSI’s policy on substance abuse.
Gongora Jr. sued for his job back or damages in the alternative, also claiming that BSI promoted him to permanent staff, then terminated him wrongfully as a form of “union busting” and in breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Labour Act of Belize.
At trial, Gongora said that he came to BSI’s compound at Tower Hill on March 2, 2012, to seek a replacement worker for his shift which was 3:00 p.m., to 11:00 p.m., because he was not feeling well. He was not dressed for work, but was making arrangements for his replacement and to officially report in sick.
After not locating the person who said he would take the shift on his behalf, the shift supervisor learned of the situation and assigned someone else, releasing Gongora for the day; but before he could leave, BSI’s chief of security met him and directed him to a meeting with then factory manager John Gillett, where he was accused of being drunk and sent home, stripped of his motorcycle keys by police.
While Gongora denied being under the influence, other employees testified to seeing Gongora “(appearing) to be in a trance, turning his head from side to side in a confused state” and when he rose to his feet, he “staggered”. The security chief claimed he recognized the smell of alcohol on him and heard Gongora admit that he was “nice up,” a local expression indicating intoxication by alcohol.
According to security chief Lyle Tillett, this is the not the first time that Gongora had shown up for work drunk and that he had personally warned him against such behaviour in the past. While there was no formal drug test, the evidence tilted against Gongora and cost him the case.
Defendant BSI was represented by substitute attorney, Yohhanseh Cave on behalf of Mrs. Deshawn Arzu Torres and Mrs. Pamela Watson of Young’s Law Firm, while Mrs. Magali Marin Young, SC, of Magali Marin Young & Co, represented the claimant, Julio Ramon Gongora Jr. Neither side commented as they left court.
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