Lawsuit against School dismissed

A lawsuit by a former Assistant Principal of the Robert Louis Stevenson Secondary School, (R.L.S.S.) against the School’s Board of Trustees alleging wrongful dismissal, has been dismissed by the Supreme Court. 

The lawsuit was filed by Afamasaga Agnes Rasmussen, of Lepea, who was the Assistant Principal at the School in 2005.

In the decision delivered by the former Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu, he said there was no letter of termination from the Board of Trustee to show that Afamasga’s employment had been terminated. 

Justice Patu said one would have expected that if the Board of Trustees had indeed terminated Afamasaga’s employment as she claimed, there would have been a written communication from the Board to that effect. 

 “But there was none,” he ruled.

“In all the circumstances, the evidence for the defendant that there was no termination or indication of termination from him of the plaintiff’s employment is to be preferred as opposed to the evidence of the plaintiff.   

“To put the matter in another way, I am not satisfied that the plaintiff had established on the balance of probabilities, her claim in wrongful termination or wrongful dismissal.”

In June 2004, Afamasaga was employed as a Teacher at the Robert Louis Stevenson Primary School. 

Later in the same year, she was appointed as the Assistant Principal for the R.L.S.S. 

It wasn’t until 2005 and 2006 when the parents of students attending the school raised concerns, alleging unprofessional behaviour from Afamasaga and some of the staff members at the school. 

After being advised by the Principal of her abrasive attitude in dealing with parents, Afamasaga sought legal advice. 

She later went to the school, packed her personal effects and did not return to school. 

After careful consideration of the evidence of Afamasaga and the then Chairman, John Ryan Jr. in relation to what transpired at their meeting in December 2006, Justice Patu said: “I found the evidence of the chairman more reliable and credible.

“I have already decided that the Principal did not say to the plaintiff at their meeting on 15 December that the defendant had terminated the plaintiff’s employment.  

“That is consistent with the terms of the covering letter of 15 December 2006, which the Principal gave to the plaintiff at the said meeting and was read by the plaintiff.

“There was no mention or any indication of termination in that letter and the purpose of the meeting on 15 December was for the principal to inform the plaintiff about non-payment of her bonus and not about any termination.”

“So when the principal of R.L.S.S. called the Chairman on 18 December 2006 and gave the Chairman a brief rundown of what had transpired at his meeting with the plaintiff on 15 December, the principal could not have informed the chairman that he, the principal, had told the plaintiff that her employment was terminated.  

“Thus, I prefer what the chairman said that there was no decision to terminate the plaintiff, and there was no recommendation from the principal to the defendant to that effect, and that he had never informed the plaintiff that her employment had been terminated on the principal’s recommendation.”

Justice Patu added that could not have been done as of 20 December 2006 because the Board of Trustee did not meet again until 24 January 2007.  

Furthermore, Afamasaga was paid her salary up to 6 February 2007 as shown from the principal’s letter of 7 February 2007 to her.

“Such payment of salary would be inconsistent with the plaintiff’s claim that her employment was terminated on 15 December and then again on 20 December,” said Justice Patu.

“It is also clear from the principal’s letter of 7 February that he had been expecting the plaintiff to return to the school to resume her work.  

“The defendant also met on 24 January as agreed between the chairman and the plaintiff to hear the plaintiff’s concerns but she chose not to turn up.”

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