No right to claim extra if ‘forced’ to resign: Court

 No right to claim extra if ‘forced’ to resign: Court

WORKERS who say they are forced to quit after their employer makes life unbearable should not expect to get any extra compensation other than that guaranteed in their contracts.

This is the norm in typical cases of "constructive dismissal". And workers will have to show proof of actual loss stemming from the dismissal, such as mental or emotional duress, if they hope to get extra damages.

The top court in Singapore made this clear in dismissing former Robinsons employee Lawrence Wee's appeal against the High Court, which had rejected his claim for damages after he argued that he had been pushed out by his employer.

The 40-year-old had worked as assistant general manager of corporate sales and cards at retailer Robinson & Co (Singapore) for about six years.

Although he resigned in August 2012, he claimed it was a case of "constructive dismissal".

This is when an employer, instead of just sacking someone, makes working conditions difficult in order to force the worker to resign. Mr Wee alleged the company persecuted him because of his homosexuality.

He was paid four months' salary in lieu of notice plus cash for unconsumed leave.

This was more than the two months' salary he was entitled to if he had been sacked under his contract.

But he sued, arguing that had he not been forced to resign, he could have continued to work there. He wanted compensation for his loss of future earnings, among other things.

Robinson successfully applied last year to strike out his claim before an assistant registrar, and then again in the High Court, which pointed out the flaw in Mr Wee's argument.

The court said his claim was "doomed to fail".

Even if he had been "constructively dismissed", he would have been entitled to only two months of salary, based on his contract, and he had already received more. His allegation that he was treated poorly because he was gay was irrelevant.

Mr Wee, represented by lawyers Paul Tan and Choo Zheng Xi, appealed against the ruling.

This was dismissed in May, and the Appeals Court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and appeals judges Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang, released the grounds for its decision last week.

The court said Mr Wee did not show he had suffered any "continuing financial losses" such as finding it tougher to get a job because of the dismissal or "distinct injuries" arising from illness or mental or emotional distress.

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