Published On: Mon, Sep 4th, 2023

GEBE has to compensate former human resources manager

PHILIPSBURG — Utilities company GEBE is paying a hefty price for the dissolution of its labor contract with human resource manager Clifford Sasso. The Court in First Instance allowed the termination of the relationship, but GEBE has to pay Sasso 264,801 guilders gross ($147,934) in compensation.

The troubled relationship between GEBE and Sasso has a long history. Sasso started working as the company’s human resources manager more than twenty years ago, on November 1, 2000. For seventeen years in a row everything appeared to be peachy, but then, on April 12, 2018, GEBE gave Sasso a written warning saying he had, without permission, instructed the finance department to process lump sum payments to people whose contract had ended or who were terminated in 2017.

Three years later, on May 20, 2021, Sasso was again at the receiving end of a warning, accompanied by a five-day suspension. This time because he had failed to inform management that several employees had tested positive for the corona-virus. In August of the same year, he received a warning for meddling in the dispute between Sharine Daniel and GEBE and in September video images showed how he helped Daniel loading folders and bags into her company car. GEBE investigated this incident and suspended Sasso per September 10.

Almost a year later, on September 9, 2022, GEBE put Sasso on non-active duty.

The company did not stop there because in 2023 it hired Trinidad-based Development Consulting to investigate the functioning of its human resources department. The results were not encouraging. “Not only is the Human Resources manager weak but those who were meant to hold him accountable must bear significant culpability.” Development Consulting found “severe shortcomings of senior and executive management, internal audit and the supervisory board.”

On March 6, GEBE made the report available to Sasso, but he refused to discuss its contents. On March 27, GEBE informed Sasso that his employment cannot continue.

GEBE asked the court to dissolve the labor contract with Sasso, citing (postponed) urgent reasons and, if the court did not accept this argument, to dissolve the contract due to changed circumstances – the disturbed employment relationship.

Sasso filed a counter claim, demanding that GEBE live up to this labor contract and to pay him compensation to the tune of more than 1.1 million guilders ($629,349) in case the contract is dissolved.

The court dismissed GEBE’s argument of an urgent reason for the dissolution of the contract because it had failed to indicate which facts qualify as such. “An urgent reason requires that there has to be a case that is extremely serious,” the ruling states. The primary reason for dissolution cannot stand because GEBE has failed to indicate what had been extremely serious during the employment. Furthermore, the court ruled, GEBE has acted insufficiently decisive in asking for dissolution because of reproachable actions. The company put Sasso on non-active duty on September 9, 2022, but it waited until March 3, 2023, to submit its dissolution-petition to the court. The ruling also states that the investigation (by Development Consulting) does not contain shocking facts about Sasso’s functioning.

However, the court found that the relationship between GEBE and Sasso has deteriorated to the point that it is reason enough to dissolve the labor contract. A second argument to support this decision is that Sasso gave insufficient substance to his function as human resources manager.

The court set the compensation for Sasso at 264,801 guilders gross ($147,934).


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