Government hiring dispute to be settled in combined hearing

The Law Courts Building in downtown George Town. - PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

The Grand Court will hear two judicial review applications in an ongoing dispute between the Ministry of Education and the Civil Service Appeals Commission, involving a situation where a non-Caymanian was hired to be the ministry’s human resources director over a Caymanian who was allegedly similarly qualified.

The dispute involves two judicial review applications: One by the education ministry seeking to overturn a Civil Service Appeals Commission order to make the Caymanian the ministry’s HR director; and the other by the Caymanian job applicant, seeking to enforce the appeals commission ruling. A hearing date for the applications has not been set.

The dispute stems from September 2017, when a non-Caymanian was hired to be the ministry’s HR director. The Caymanian who was passed over took her case to the Civil Service Appeals Commission, arguing that the ministry had “acted unfairly or in a biased manner” in making the hiring decision.

On Dec. 20, 2017, the appeals commission, chaired by former Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks, agreed that there was evidence that the ministry “acted unfairly toward the [Caymanian job applicant] during the selection phase of the recruitment process.”

The commission ordered that the Caymanian applicant be offered the post as of Feb. 15, 2018, and that she receive additional compensation for pay she would have received if she had been hired for the human resources job at the date it was first awarded, in late September 2017. The appeals commission also ordered that the non-Caymanian be removed from his position, effective Feb. 14, 2018.

However, the Ministry of Education did not comply with the appeals commission’s orders, and filed a legal challenge to the commission’s order in May, seeking to have the Grand Court nullify the orders – a filing in which the ministry called the commission’s orders “outrageous” and “in defiance of logic.”

In May, the Grand Court accepted the ministry’s application to have a judicial review, but a hearing date has not yet been set for the dispute.

In October, attorneys Natasha Bodden and Clayton Phuran filed another judicial review application on behalf of the Caymanian job applicant, seeking to have the Grand Court enforce the appeals commission’s orders.

In that application, the Caymanian calls former Education Ministry Chief Officer Christen Suckoo’s decision not to hire her “unlawful.” She also called the hiring process “unfair.”

One of the ministry’s reasons for hiring the non-Caymanian was because that applicant had prior experience as a HR manager of a large team of employees. However, the non-Caymanian’s only relevant experience was his seven months as the ministry’s acting HR director, according to the Caymanian applicant’s challenge.

The Caymanian’s judicial review application also stated that she scored 4.5 points higher than the non-Caymanian during a panel interview. The Caymanian scored the highest of all applicants, while the non-Caymanian scored fourth highest of five shortlisted candidates, according to the judicial review application.

“The Plaintiff scored the highest and the only suggested excuse for not appointing her is the basis that the successful, non-Caymanian candidate had experience with a large team, which was gained by the same acting in the open position for seven months, during the time of the recruitment process,” the Caymanian’s judicial review application states. “The experience gained in such circumstances should not be a relevant factor for consideration, it was unfair advantage gained by an unfair process.”

On Thursday, Justice Ingrid Mangatal accepted the Caymanian’s judicial review application, and ordered that both applications be heard concurrently. She also ordered that a directions hearing for both matters be set on the “first convenient date” after March 11.

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