Karnataka High Court: Sacked supervisor can’t claim damages as ‘workman’

Karnataka High Court: Sacked supervisor can’t claim damages as ‘workman’
Ronica Genever joined Britannia Industries Limited in 1992 as a receptionist, handling the telephones, fax and other office tasks.

Her service was confirmed in 1993. In 2005, the management revised her salary and other benefits and stated that she had been promoted to the 'selection grade category'. She was asked to continue with the same work, with additional tasks like handling travel bookings for officers and processing their medical and mobile bills. She continued doing the same work after being designated an ‘office grade - 3’ worker in 2010.

Twenty years after she joined, Genever was asked to resign. She did not yield and wrote a letter to the management. However, the management served her a termination order in November 2012. After further correspondence, her termination was rescinded and she continued working. But within a few days, another termination order was served. She was given compensation for retrenchment through two cheques. In a letter, Genever informed the company that she was encashing the cheques under protest and maintained that her removal was illegal.

She then approached the Labour Court against her termination. The management argued before the court that she was promoted to management category in 2005 and was no longer a ‘workman’ under the Industrial Disputes Act. It was also alleged that she “miserably failed in the performance of her duties and caused financial loss to the company”. She was given time to improve but “she remained static in her performance”. The Labour Court held that Genever was not a ‘workman’ and dismissed her case.

The matter reached the High Court, which, after hearing both the parties, said that it was true that if a person was performing clerical work and occasionally discharging some duties of supervisory nature, he/she is still a ‘workman’ under the law. But in this case, “she might have joined as a workman at the initial stage but at the time when the dispute was raised, she did not come under the definition of workman”.

Dismissing her petition, the HC said, “Looking at the nature of the job shown in the claim statement and in the counter statement, the Labour Court came to the conclusion that petitioner is not a workman. This finding of fact recorded by the Labour Court, which is based on evidence and materials on record, does not call for interference by this Court.”

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