Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ronald Wong's response to the Straits Times' editorial on FCBC's dismissal of employee

The Straits Times' editorial on Faith Community Baptist Church's dismissal of an employee alleges the church's leadership as colliding religion with public interest:
When organised religion collides with the public interest in what some deem to be a faith-based dispute, there is no question a correct decision is one that favours society at large while respecting the doctrinal sanctity of that faith. 
My friend, Ronald Wong, has submitted a response to the Straits Times, but it was not published. Ronald's response points out that it is Straits Times' insistence to perceive the case as a conflict between the religious and the secular that has introduced the religious dimension into the case, and so has stirred the public's view to see it in that light.

Here is Ronald's article:
I refer to the Opinion article, “Safeguard secular nature of labour laws” (17 Sep 2013). The author made a distinction between “secular legislation” and “biblical teachings and the ethics of the independent church” in respect of grounds for dismissal of an employee. Without commenting on any specific case, it should be noted that the issue of dismissal on the grounds of ‘misconduct’ is not so simply drawn as between secular or religious.

An employee can be summarily dismissed for misconduct under section 14 of the Employment Act and/or misconduct amounting to a repudiatory breach of an employment contract (where the Employment Act is inapplicable). The scope of ‘misconduct’ would vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. There have been legal decisions stating that misconduct that is prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to the interests or reputation of the employer could warrant summary dismissal (Reilly v. Steelcase Canada Ltd. (1979) 26 O.R. (2d) 725 103 D.L.R. (3d) 704 (Ontario High Court Of Justice)); likewise as misconduct that has the potential to adversely affect the working environment (Smith v The Christchurch Press Co Ltd - [2001] 1 NZLR 407 (Court of Appeal Wellington)). Hence, in Smith v The Christchurch Press Co Ltd, the Court held that the employee was validly dismissed for sexual misconduct in relation to another employee outside the office during lunch hour as it was an issue concerning two employees, arose out of the work situation and had the potential to adversely affect the working environment.

The conclusion that could be drawn from these cases is that the issue of whether a particular act of misconduct, whether characterized as moral, sexual, physical, reputational or otherwise, has to be determined according to the context of the case and not simply whether it is based on secular or religious ethics.
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See original ST Opinion article here: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/editorial-safeguard-secular-nature-labour-laws
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(Nothing herein constitutes or is for the purpose of legal advice. You should consult a lawyer to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Nothing here creates a solicitor-client relationship between the author and reader/user.)

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