Joseph Avellino vs Citadel Insurance plc
Decided by the First Hall of the Civil Court (10.06.2014)
Plaintiff Joseph Avellino was employed with Citadel Plc as a Chief Executive Officer on a fixed-term contract of employment for four years.
Before the four years were up, the employer terminated the agreement and hence the employment, claiming it had valid reasons at law to do so.
Planitiff sued the company before the First Hall of the Civil Court, claiming damages on breach of contract to the tune of what the Employment Laws say, namely, half the remaining wages that have accrued in his favour had his employment not been terminated.
The Defendant company Citadel Plc defended the case primarily by stating that the First Hall of the Civil Court was not the correct forum for these procedures, since plaintiff was obliged to pursue his claim before the Industrial Tribunal, which has exclusive jurisdiction on issues of termination of employment. It consequently asked the Court to refrain from the continuance of this case and dismiss the case since it had no power at law to hear and determine the plaintiff’s claim.
On the 10th June 2014, the First Hall of the Civil Court decided precisely this point.
It noted that the plaintiff argued that he was correct to institute procedures before the Civil Court, given that he was not claiming a declaration by the Court to the effect that he was unfairly terminated – he was only seeking half the remaining wages in terms of the employment legislation.
The Court observed that the defendant company was on the other hand, claiming that if the Court had to award or otherwise half the remaining wages requested by plaintiff, then it had necessarily to determine whether the termination was for a just cause or otherwise – and that was not the Courts authority to do, the law specifically reserved that examination to the Industrial Tribunal.
The Court upheld the reasoning brought froward by the defendant company Citadel Plc and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, on the basis that the Court declared that it was absolutely necessary to determine whether the termination was for a just and fair cause if it had to determine whether plaintiff was entitled for half the remaining wages or otherwise, stating that the right for payment depended essentially on the reason for termination.
The defendant company was assisted by lawyers Ian Spiteri Bailey & Victoria Cuschieri of SB Advocates.