Liberia Electricity Corporation Dismisses Employee over ‘Political Comment’ on Facebook
MONROVIA – The private firm hired by the Millennium Challenge Account Liberia to manage the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), EBSI, has been accused by an employee of the LEC of wrongful dismissal and violating the labor laws of Liberia.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Mr. James Kpargoi who served as Communication Director was dismissed by the CEO of ESBI without any specific reason stated in his dismissal letter.
His dismissal letter reads:
Please be informed that your services are no longer required by the Liberia Electricity Corporation.
Your employment is therefore terminated effective this day, July 10th 2019.
I hereby confirm receipt of your official LEC ID card, and your 2 radio hand set. Please return outstanding LEC property in your custody including fuel card to the Executive Director HR by close of business on Friday, July 12th 2019.
Paschal J. Buckley
Chief Executive Officer
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica on his dismissal, Mr. Kpargoi said he was on his daily community outreach program to combat power theft when he received a telephone call from the CEO, Mr. Buckley, requesting him to make his way to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to him, when he arrived at the Executive Mansion, the CEO introduced him to Mr. Archibald Bernard who chairs of the Board of Directors of the LEC and at the same time serves as Legal Advisor to the President.
According to him, it was there that he was shown a comment made under one of Henry Costa’s Facebook live sessions. The commenter reads “Stupid. President”. The comment was made with similar name and profile picture as his Facebook page.
Mr. Kpargoi said after he was shown the post, Mr. Bernard then told him, “You no longer have a job”.
“With my level of education and sophistication, how would I make such a comment on social media. This is the reason why I was dismissed with no investigation, no due diligence and in complete violation of the LEC handbook. I know nothing about the comment on Facebook. It could be that my account was cloned, it’s happening around here,” he said.
In his attempt to seek redress from the management of LEC, Mr. Kpargoi wrote a letter to Mr. Buckley outlining a litany of violations made by him through the ‘wrongful dismissal’.
The letter reads in part:
Dear Mr. Buckley,
Hope this letter finds you all well. We are three days short of one month since I was illegally terminated by you on directive of Cllr. Archibald Bernard, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Electricity Corporation. I must again reiterate here that the allegation levied against me is false and preposterous. With my level of education, sophistication and self-consciousness, it is unthinkable that I would have done what I was accused of. Sadly, though, is that fact that managers of your caliber would attribute such comment to me and go to the extent of using it to justify my wrongful dismissal and ongoing persecution. What is most disturbing is the involvement of ESBI, a reputable international company, in this flagrant violation of human rights. All of the processes leading to my termination blatantly violate Liberian laws (Decent Work Act, Code of Conduct, LEC Employee’s Handbook) and acceptable international labor standards. I am constrained to bring to your attention some of the violations that continue to deliberately be perpetrated against me in this matter.
According to Kpargoi, Buckley’s action to dismiss him in the manner in which he was dismissed is in violation of Part XV of the Employee’s Handbook of the LEC which states “no disciplinary action should be taken against an employee without an investigation or due process carried out by the Disciplinary Committee.”
He informed the CEO in his response to the dismissal that the decision to instantly follow the directive of Cllr. Bernard violates provisions of the LEC Employee’s Handbook as he was not accorded due process.
“You would concur with me that there was absolutely no investigation to determine which corporate policies or procedures I violated. Furthermore, you unilaterally proceeded to violate other provisions of our internal rules and procedures. I am not quite sure you have acquainted yourself with these controlling internal laws or the labour laws of Liberia. If you have not, let me inform you that you also violated Part XXIII (Termination Policies) of the LEC Handbook. Section 1: Termination reads: “LEC Employee’s services may be terminated in the following ways: (a) Without notice if guilty of a major offense of duty; (b) With written notice; (c) 4 weeks written notice (salaried employees); or (d) Salary payment in lieu of notice,” Kpargoi contended.
Kpargoi further lamented that in violation of said provisions, Mr. Buckley instructed the finance department to discontinue his salary as of July 10, 2019.
He further wrote: “The Decent Work Act, the law that regulates employees and employers in Liberia provides that “all persons who work or seek to work in Liberia are entitle to enjoy and to exercise the rights and protection conferred by this Act irrespective of political affiliation or opinion, or ideological conviction. Your decision to dismiss me on the merits of a political comment falsely attributed to me can appropriately be categorized as your involvement in political activities in Liberia”.
He added: “The law is very clear about the basis on which employers shall terminate the services of employees. It is mindboggling why an expatriate manager representing the interest of ESBI, a reputable company, would decide to violate every provision of the Act, applicable to my situation.”