Employment Court – Officer awarded $30,000

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A FORMER Whakatane policeman has been awarded $30,000 after it was found that he was disadvantaged “significantly and unjustifiably” in his employment.

In 2006 Daniel Sean Ramkissoon witnessed four of his colleagues beat prisoner Rawiri Falwasser while he was in custody at the Whakatane Police Station with batons and pepper-spray and testified in the subsequent case.

A judgment of the High Court eventually found the prisoner was assaulted by the officers and awarded damages. But Mr Ramkissoon believed his decision to give evidence in the case led to a deterioration of his status within police.

In 2009, Mr Ramkissoon applied for the role of station sergeant at Opotiki in a bid to escape the perceived uncomfortable atmosphere at the Whakatane police station. A requirement of the job was for the applicant to be eligible to take on the rank of sergeant.

Mr Ramkissoon had not passed the sergeant examination at that time but after making inquiries he decided to apply for the role because the advice he was given was that it was general practice within the police to appoint on a provisional basis while the necessary qualifications were attained.

After an interview with the appointment panel, Mr Ramkissoon was offered the position and had even signed an employment contract when it was retracted because he did not hold the appropriate qualifications.

Eventually, it was decided the appointment would be made and advertised in a magazine that advises appointments and vacancies within the police with the stipulation that if no one requested a review of the appointment then it would be finalised.

However, an application was made by the member of the human resource department, who had given Mr Ramkissoon the advice about being able to work in acting manner until he received the necessary qualification. The application for review was prompted by Inspector Kevin Taylor.

As a result, the job offer was retracted and Mr Ramkissoon took sick leave, alleging the stress of the situation was impacting on his mental health and his ability to sleep.

Mr Ramkissoon sought help from a psychologist who recommended he continue on sick leave and then, when he eventually returned to work, he be allowed to perform restricted duties during day time hours.

Over a period of 26 months, attempts were made to get Mr Ramkissoon back on fulltime duties, including Mr Taylor demanding a medical certificate to prove he was sick and the removal of some of his benefits.

However, on April 18, 2011 Mr Ramkissoon notified his supervisors that he would not be returning to work and he would probably seek medical disengagement from the police.

Mr Ramkissoon applied to the Employment Court claiming he was unjustifiably disadvantaged in his employment. He also said he had been dismissed constructively and unjustifiably.

The application sought reinstatement as a police officer with the rank of sergeant, compensation for lost remuneration as well as for distress and humiliation.In his decision, Chief Judge Graeme Colgan said Mr Ramkissoon was unjustifiably disadvantaged because the challenge to review his provisional appointment deprived him of the Opotiki appointment.

“Inspector Taylor was in a conflicted situation and allowed his predisposition against the plaintiff to infect the outcome of the review. Inspector Taylor effectively instigated Ms Welch’s review application and then prepared the essential information on which the decision of it was made by the [human resources general manger].

“The inspector should have referred the review to another human resource person to handle, but he did
not do so. Inspector Taylor breached the requirement that, as a ‘relevant HR Manager who had been involved in the appointment under review’, he should immediately refer to the human resource manager.”

However, Judge Colgan said Mr Ramkissoon was not unfairly dismissed.

“Even if the plaintiff had established a constructive dismissal of him by the Commissioner, the justification I
have found for his treatment by his employer over his period of illness would probably also have justified a constructive dismissal of him.”

karla.akuhata@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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