Industrial Court awards ex-director of operations RM300k for “wrongful retrenchment”

THE Industrial Court has awarded approximately RM300,000 in compensation to be paid by Inti International Education Sdn Bhd (Inti International) to former executive Ooi Lay Khuan, citing dismissal without just cause or excuse due to lack of evidence supporting the grounds of a genuine redundancy.

Industrial Court chairman Dr Salahudin Hidayat Shariff highlighted the education service provider’s failure to offer re-training or redeployment options and the absence of efforts to assist Ooi in finding alternative employment.

As actual reinstatement was deemed challenging given the situation, Salahudin awarded back wages of RM211,716.00 and compensation of RM98,649.07 in lieu of reinstatement.

Ooi, formerly the director of operations at the Traditional Chinese Medicine School at Inti International University, began as a project manager in 2007 and faced “retrenchment” on April 30, 2021 (height of the COVID-19 pandemic).

She was initially put on garden leave for one month and offered compensation equivalent to two months’ notice.

Ooi Lay Khuan (Pic credit: LinkedIn)

The Court found that Inti International failed to prove a genuine redundancy of the claimant’s position and that the retrenchment was done bona fide. The claimant was dismissed without just cause or excuse.

In arriving at its decision, the Industrial Court concluded that Inti International should be able to retain or at least try to retain its employees during the economic downturn even though its physical activities were constrained during movement control order (MCO) period given the management had done a sterling job to maintain profits during the post-MCO stage.

Inti International further claimed that due to economic reasons during the pandemic, it was forced to re-assign the claimant’s duties to another thus her post was redundant to justify the retrenchment.

That the claimant’s duties remain but are taken up by another post does not make the claimant’s post redundant, ruled the court.  Hence, the retrenchment could not be justified.

As such, Inti International ought to provide credible evidence to prove that the claimant after having served the former for 13 years was in a redundant position.

Leonard Yeoh together with Pua Jun Wen of Tay & Partners represented Ooi while Tan Mei Fang and Jasmine Goh of Rahmat Lim & Partners acted for Inti International. – March 1, 2024

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