Injunctions Over Disciplinary Proceedings – How Far and How Wide?
The Supreme Court in the case of Republic v Bank of Ghana & 5 Ors; Ex Parte Benjamin Duffourhas held that an injunction order prohibiting an employer from holding disciplinary hearings against an employee in a specific matter does not bar the employer from initiating separate disciplinary proceedings against the same employee in respect of a separate conduct.
“If this court is to hold that no disciplinary action could be taken against the Appellant until the final determination of the matter, then assuming the Appellant gives out confidential information or even burns down the Bank, then it means that no disciplinary action can be taken against him until his case before the High Court has been settled”, the Court noted.
The Appellant, in this case, was a deputy manager of the Bank of Ghana. He was granted permission to live in one of Bank of Ghana’s apartment in a prime area. The Bank of Ghana subsequently asked him to vacate his current residence to another property. According to the Respondent Bank, the Appellant’s current apartment was to be redeveloped into a health facility. The Appellant refused to move out.
The Appellant, in order to keep the Respondent Bank away, filed a suit in the High Court against his eviction. The Appellant also filed an injunction application to prevent his ejection; and a further order restraining the Respondent Bank from calling upon him to appear before a disciplinary committee pending the final determination of the matter. The High Court refused the injunction application preventing the Respondent Bank from ejecting the Appellant and but gave an order restraining the Respondent Bank from initiating disciplinary proceedings against the Appellant.
The Respondent Bank subsequently ejected and dismissed the appellant for gross misconduct. The Appellant considered his employer’s exercise of disciplinary powers over him as contemptuous and initiated contempt proceedings against the Respondent Bank.
In setting out the issue to be resolved, Baffoe-Bonnie JSC speaking for the court quizzed: “Does it then mean that after the High Court gave the said order, the [R]espondents were completely barred from taking any disciplinary action against the [A]ppellant until the final determination of the matter before the High Court?”
According to the Supreme Court, the purpose of the injunction was to restrain the Respondent Bank from taking disciplinary actions against the Appellant for his alleged refusal to relocate from the apartment. In the view of the Court: “…the bank from the injunction granted by the High Court could not in any way invite the Appellant to a disciplinary committee with the purpose of punishing him for his refusal to relocate from the apartment. However, the said injunction cannot be said to have barred the bank from taking any other disciplinary action against the [A]ppellant pending the final determination of the matter.”
That said, the Supreme Court found that the Respondent Bank was in contempt when it decided to summarily dismiss the Appellant. The Court noted that the Respondent Bank dismissed the Appellant for his refusal to quit the apartment – an act which clearly prejudiced the matter before the court. “…[T]he Respondent [Bank] wants this court to believe that the Appellant’s dismissal was for something else other than his refusal to vacate the premises. We are not convinced by this argument”, the Court concluded.