First instance decision
Court of Appeal decision
In Popi Sieli v Bank of Cyprus the Court of Appeal ruled on termination as a result of irreparable damage in employment relations.
The appellant had been employed as a branch manager by the respondents since 1988. In 2004 her employment was terminated by the respondents as a result of inappropriate behaviour. The appellant considered her dismissal to be illegal, unconstitutional and against the rules of natural justice. She brought an action against the respondents claiming 23 years' salary, plus bonuses.
Before her dismissal, the respondents had received a report that the appellant had cashed a cheque for £10,000, which had been issued by her branch as part of a loan for £63,000 to a customer, and which had been made out in the name of another person. The report initiated an investigation with regard to the loan of which the cheque was part - from the application stage until the property was transferred to the customer.
The court of first instance dealt with the events that had taken place before the dismissal. It rejected the appellant's suggestion that the procedure that the respondents had invited her to attend before their inquiry board had amounted to a disciplinary hearing, and argued that the case should be decided based on civil rather than employment law. The court also concluded that the respondents had investigated the complaint within reasonable time, followed a logical procedure and given the appellant the chance to have her say.
The court therefore found that the respondents had correctly followed the disciplinary procedure they had in place, making the subsequent dismissal of the appellant lawful. It thus rejected the case.
The Court of Appeal focused on the procedure followed by the respondents during the investigation. The appellant's counsel had suggested that when she was called to appear before the respondents' inquiry board, she had in fact been called to attend a disciplinary hearing. If the inquiry had indeed amounted to a disciplinary hearing, then the appellant would have had the right to be accompanied by a lawyer of her choice, in accordance with the respondents' disciplinary procedure rules. The appellant refused to attend the inquiry at the time, because the respondents did not allow her to be accompanied by her lawyer. When the appellant refused to attend the inquiry, the respondents decided to start the procedure in her absence. If this procedure had amounted to a disciplinary hearing, then the disciplinary procedure followed by the respondents would have been void, rendering the appellant's dismissal by the respondents unlawful.
The other aspect of the appeal concerned the evidence presented to the inquiry board, which was closely connected to the testimony put before the court of first instance. The Court of Appeal agreed with the rationale of the court of first instance that the relationship of the parties to the proceedings was governed by civil contract law. The respondents fulfilled their obligation by investigating the matter within reasonable time - from when the report was made in August 2003 until the appellant's dismissal in January 2004. The court further found that the court of first instance had reached the correct conclusion and that the appellant had been given the chance to have her say.
The court concluded that the employer-employee relationship had been irreparably damaged as a result of the events of the case and that the appellant's dismissal was a necessary consequence. The appeal was thus rejected.
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