In The Bahamas, summary dismissal and unfair dismissal from employment differ because of the reasons underlying the dismissal. Both employees and employers should become familiar with the grounds for dismissal permitted by Bahamian law.
Bahamian employers may summarily terminate the employment of an employee who (1) commits a fundamental breach of his employment contract, or (2) acts in a manner repugnant to the fundamental interests of the employer. Essentially, the employer must have evidence or at least an argument that the employee has done something wrong. Employment Act, Section 31.
Grounds for summary dismissal include such violations as dishonesty, theft, fraud, gross insubordination, breach of confidentiality, gross negligence or misconduct, and even incompetence. If an employee challenges a termination claiming there were no grounds for summary dismissal, the employer must show that he honestly and reasonably believed the employee had committed a violation or breach. The employer also must show that he reasonably investigated the violation, if an investigation was warranted. Employment Act, Section 32.
Bahamian law considers summary dismissal for one of the reasons listed above to be “fair”. Unfair dismissal occurs when the principal reason for termination of employment was the employee's protected activity. Protected activity includes the following:
- Employee becomes pregnant,
- Employee was or planned to become a trade union member,
- Employee participated or planned to participate in union activities,
- Employee was not a union member, or refused or proposed to refuse to become or remain a union member,
- Employer was engaging in a lockout, or the employee was participating in lawful industrial action (such as a strike), and
- Employer principally dismissed the employee because of redundancy, but the employee can show that other employees with similar duties would have been in the same circumstances as him but were not dismissed.
Employment Act, Sections 36-40. Employees who were unfairly dismissed may be reinstated or receive an award of damages.
Summary dismissal once proper grounds are established will be upheld while unfair dismissal means that a dismissal has not been carried out in accordance with Bahamian law. Employees who fear they have been unfairly dismissed and employers who want to dismiss employees but fear it may be construed as unfair dismissal should contact legal counsel for advice.
To find out more about dismissal from employment in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.