More than two years ago we brought you the story of six former employees of Belize Waters Services Limited. Michael Novelo, Mark Menzies, Journett McKoy, Charlette Barnett, Don Gillett and Collin Morrison were given their walking papers in March of 2013 and were told that their posts have been redundant. However, the group of six believed that they were wrongfully terminated after being accused of disseminating scandalous information within the company. So they hired their lawyers and filed a suit against BWS. This morning, Justice Michelle Arana ruled in favor of the former employees ordering that BWS pay damages and cost of court. Attorney Said Musa who represented Mark Menzies shared more.
They’ve been waiting for over two years now, since they were all terminated from their service and they’ve been very patient. They all gave their testimony in court. We expected the outcome today and I am very happy for them because really BWS treated them very badly. They were wrongly accused of being involved with some scandalous letter that was being circulated in the office at the time and there was absolutely no proof of any of them being involved whereas the CEO of the company actually went on record pointing out that action would be taken against those people and they were the victims of this whole thing.
Marisol: Reasonably though, what can be expected as redress? Though we expect that they would be returned to their job?
No. In the law, the service of an employee is one area in which the court is very loaved have reinstatement of service. They would normally award compensation and damages and this is what will happen in this case. To be honest with you, it wasn’t really a difficult case to argue. A lot depended on the testimony of the employees themselves but also the case was presented on their behalf by the CEO and Mr. Brown, he was the Human Resource Director/Manager and we poked a series of holes in their testimony. There were various inconsistencies and discrepancies in their testimonies and so we are not surprised by their outcome.
The other claimants were represented by Attorney Tricia Pitts Anderson.
It actually feels a sign of relief knowing that we have sent a message to the company that we are not just here for you to push around. Employees have voice and as a reference to other employees to do the same, that you don’t have to take it. You have a lot of employees at that place taking a battering from management, they need to come out, don’t be afraid. We are testimony. We took on a giant and we are already hearing rumors floating around that no matter what the decision is to appeal just to draw out the whole situation just to try and draw us down but like I said, if I don’t spend it, my child will spend it.
I put out resume, I filled out forms and I encountered two incidents when I went to a job site. One was when I went on Northern Road, I wont call the name of the establishment but when I got there, I was hired and everything, they had me get an upgrade of my drivers license to drive a six wheel truck. I did all of that then I went to the bank because they told me to go to the bank so that my pay could go in there. They had hired me already, they just needed to give me the date when to go in and get all of that before the date they told me. On the day when I went in, the supervisor at the warehouse told me, Mr McKoy I will deal with you right now, Come in to the office so I went into the office. When I went into the office, the man told me, you were very honest. I don’t want to get into any trouble but he said they did not get a good recommendation from BWS about you and that was damning to know that I did not do anything to those people. I didn’t do anything to Alvan Haynes, nothing to Hayden Brown, nothing to Lorilee Wesbey, nothing to Rashida Williams and nothing to Russel Young and I am surprised at them because I was a well-respected and disciplined person at my job. My supervisor and all involved with me going because they didn’t’ like me. My manager didn’t say anything when I gawn, none of them but they all said it was good that Jernett was fired and we got him out of the way and we are climbing the ladder. They said they are climbing the ladder so they don’t care what happens to us because they are climbing the ladder.
We were basically abandoned by our union so as opposed to just laying over and taking it for what it was, I want the public to see that there is another route, there are other things that you can do to protect yourself and clear your own name because like Mr. Novelo said earlier, justice is still out there but at times it takes a little effort, a little camaraderie and a lot of patience and understanding on how the wheels of justice turn. They tend to turn slow but at the end of the day if you are honest, you are honest.
We all knew that we didn’t do anything wrong. So immediately if I am correct, I think it was the first week, we got terminated, we all got together, sought out a lawyer, like we had said before, we are innocent from the beginning. WE are still innocent. Many of the people from BWS came, I should say all of them, came and lied after swearing on the bible about what we did and apparently the judge saw through that.
Sharlett Barnett: At first it was hard supporting a child without a job. I was the only female. It was very hard but eventually I did get a job and that made it a little bit easier. Now that the decision was passed down I am very thankful. It really feels good to win, to know that we didn’t do anything wrong and the court ruled in our favor.
All parties still have to meet in order to agree on what the value of the damages would be and by when it will be paid.