British dentist wins unfair dismissal case, receives $0

Dr. Lindsay Harvey and her husband Jon Harvey. The couple say they will be moving back to the U.K. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Dr. Lindsay Harvey went unpaid for about three months, got fired when she complained to friends and her attorney about it, and was then awarded $0 in restitution for what the Cayman Islands Labour Tribunal judged was her unfair dismissal.

“The [Labour] Tribunal finds it hard to think of a dismissal more procedurally unfair,” the tribunal stated in its ruling.

“No reasonable employer could have decided to dismiss [Dr. Harvey], essentially because she told friends, her attorney and regulatory bodies in the Cayman Islands that she was not being paid and that Pure Healthcare [her employer] was experiencing other difficulties,” the ruling, made in August 2016, stated.

Matters surrounding Dr. Harvey’s dismissal concerned what the tribunal termed “an unfortunate series of events” between July 2015 and Dec. 30, 2015, when she was fired.

The records of the case, which was presented to the Labour Tribunal in May 2016, were given to the Cayman Compass. Dr. Harvey and her husband, Jon Harvey, say they will be leaving the Cayman Islands shortly.

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Dr. Harvey was hired by Pure Healthcare in March 2015 under a contract that the tribunal stated did not provide a “basic salary,” but rather allowed her to be paid based on how many patients she attended to.

On Dec. 30, about nine months after she was hired, Dr. Harvey received a letter stating that she had engaged in breaches of her contract, namely that she had engaged in conduct “likely to injure the company in its profession.”

“I have done no such thing and I have not done anything that is untrue or defamatory,” Dr. Harvey said in her complaint to the tribunal.

A number of allegations were considered in the case against Dr. Harvey, most of which were dismissed by the tribunal. The one matter that “appeared to be central” was that Dr. Harvey was not paid in a timely manner by her employer and that she eventually refused to work until she was paid.

On Oct. 26, 2015, Dr. Harvey informed her employer that since she had not been paid for her work in September, she would not be returning. The tribunal documents state she attempted to return to work in early November, but had to take off again in mid-November due to stress and ill health the situation had caused.

Matters progressed in much the same way until late December 2015, when Dr. Harvey alleged she was ”bullied and harassed” into returning to work, which she did on Dec. 21, 2015, the tribunal stated. At this point, she alleged that she had not been paid for the months of September, October and November.

“[I returned to work on Dec. 21] although I still had not been paid in full,” she wrote. “Gregg Anderson [identified in the tribunal records as the owner of Pure Healthcare] waited until the close of the day on Dec. 30 to fire me for alleged unprofessional behavior.”

Email records dating from July 2015 note various difficulties Pure Healthcare experienced in paying its employees, including Dr. Harvey. In one email, Mr. Anderson wrote, “I plead your forgiveness in my inability to pay your salary today and in a timely manner as required …”

After Dr. Harvey stated she would not return to work in late October until she had been paid for September, an email from Mr. Anderson on Nov. 2 indicated: “You chose not to work so I’m not obligated to pay for that decision which has been costly to both of us.”

The tribunal stated the nonpayment issue appeared not to have been resolved by the end of November 2015.

Dr. Harvey was dismissed the next month for allegedly disclosing confidential information about the Pure Healthcare practice and allegedly “defaming” Mr. Anderson in discussions and emails to friends.

The tribunal found no evidence that Dr. Harvey had disclosed confidential information or that she had disclosed information that would cause damage to Pure Healthcare.

“In the tribunal’s view, it would not be disclosing confidential information … for [Dr. Harvey] to complain about [nonpayment of salary] to friends, her attorney or regulatory bodies,” the ruling stated.

Without any findings of “serious misconduct” against Dr. Harvey, the Labour Tribunal concluded that her dismissal on Dec. 30, 2015 must have been unfair.

No award

Despite the unfair dismissal finding, Dr. Harvey did not receive any payment award from the tribunal.

“… [Dr. Harvey] does not appear to have earned a ‘basic salary,’ so as to allow the tribunal to calculate the ceiling of any such award at one week’s wages for completed year of service,” the tribunal found.

Dr. Harvey had worked at Pure Healthcare for only nine months and so was not entitled to severance pay, the tribunal found. She might have been awarded additional pay for unfair dismissal, but the tribunal found this would have been impractical to calculate.

“[Dr. Harvey] intimated that the real purpose of her complaint was not to recover money but rather to clear her name and given that and the practicality of calculating an unfair dismissal award … the tribunal makes no award of compensation.”

Mr. Anderson did not appear at the tribunal hearing.

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  1. After reading this report I see that the Labor Tribunal was fair and correct in its findings; however to the Owner of Health Care and the Employee I observed through this report that things went all wrong from the beginning which caused communications to break down and ended on a sour note.
    Again however, I would say to Mr Greg Anderson, let your conscious be your guide. If you owe the lady a few dollars, pay her; case close. To the employee I would say better luck next time.
    I will also continue in the same breath to say that there maybe more cases on island as such; but not being reported, so my advice to everyone is when coming to Cayman seeking for a job do not sign away your soul just to be here.

  2. Twyla.
    I agree with you.

    I am not usually a big fan of unfair dismissal tribunals but in this case her case is valid.

    You can’t expect any employee to continue to work for you without being paid.

    She should certainly have been awarded the money she was owed. Plus added compensation for the way she was treated.

  3. Yes Twyla, the miscommunication was the fact that he wasn’t paying her for weeks on end. She then communicated to him that she would not be coming to work until he communicated payment.
    How can non-payment of salary be a miscommunication?? How sour would you be if you hadn’t been paid for work done? She’s not a waitress working on tips. She is a medical professional!

  4. Welcome to the world of ‘zero hours’ contracts. I’m actually amazed that immigration granted the WP when it was clear her employers had a complete cop out that let them refuse to pay any kind of wages without a valid reason. Maybe the Immigration Law needs looking at?

    • Your whole country needs looking at. I’ve known Dr. Harvey for decades. She is a hard working diligent and dedicated first class dentist. She was cheated from day one to the end of this whole damn affair. She’s lost so much by offering her great skill to the people of the Caymans and she has not only been cheated by he so-called employer, but by the legal system.