By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Island School’s former chief administrator, who was fired for bad-mouthing her employer as “a racist and sexist organisation that was willfully breaking” Immigration laws, has had her termination upheld by the Supreme Court.
Chenara Carey sued the Eleuthera-based education non-profit for wrongful or unfair dismissal after she was removed from her $63,700-a-year post, but Justice Ian Winder rejected all her claims and awarded the Island School all its legal costs in a judgment released this Monday.
His findings disclosed that Ms Carey had made the allegations, vehemently denied by the Island School and its senior executives, to two potential hires for management jobs. Yet, in the first case, the education non-profit actually believed Ms Carey’s denial over the word of the informant, who was “actually terminated” from his post.
However, it acted just months later when a second potential recruit made the same allegations against her. Justice Winder found the Island School had reason to “form an honest” belief that Ms Carey had made defamatory allegations against it, and the way it was operating, and had conducted a sufficiently thorough investigation - as required by the Employment Act - to reach the conclusion it did.
The Island School, in its defence to the wrongful and/or unfair dismissal claim, asserted that Ms Carey had committed “misconduct which was repugnant to its fundamental interests” through the comments made to two persons seeking jobs with it.
It identified the first incident as occurring in October 2017 when she drove Rodney Lloyd from the airport to the school’s campus, with the second happening in July 2018 when she met with Fiona Daniels, who was applying for the chief financial officer’s post.
“On the first occasion, the defendant [the Island School] accepted [Ms Carey’s] denial over the word of Mr Lloyd, and Mr Lloyd was actually terminated, and the defendant believed her when she said Mr Lloyd was being dishonest,” the school’s defence stated.
“In 2018, when the defendant received a second report of (strikingly similar) disparaging comments made by the plaintiff to Ms Daniels, the defendant confronted the plaintiff once again with the accusation.” This was again denied but, given the similarities between the evidence provided by Mr Lloyd and Ms Daniels, the Island School rejected Ms Carey’s version of events and terminated her.
“In her appeal document, in addition to denying the statements made by Mr Lloyd and Ms Daniels, the plaintiff remarkably and repeatedly referred to herself as ‘the only token black Bahamian’,” the Island School, which is well-known for its education and scientific research, as well as education, said.
“The defendant vehemently denies any racist practices, and asserts that such practices go against its vision, mission, core principles and everything that it represents and has built as an outstanding corporate citizen and community leader over the years.”
Ms Carey, not surprisingly, gave a sharply different version of events that was ultimately rejected by Justice Winder. She alleged that Mr Lloyd, who was hired to manage the accounting department, was “mentally unstable” and started “cyber bullying staff” after he was removed, even posting the Island School’s financial statements on Facebook.
“He also sent a complaint to the Prime Minister who, in turn, asked for the Department of Labour to come down and do an investigation,” Ms Carey alleged of Mr Lloyd. “The Department of Labour came down and, while they did their investigation, Ed [Brooks, the Island School’s then-chief executive] was slapped on the wrist and told by Dion Johnson, the Labour Department investigator, that he was the one who did something wrong in this whole process.”
As for he encounter with Ms Daniels, Ms Carey said that in responding to issues that the Island School’s human resources arm dealt with regularly, “I told her that the majority I deal with are due to racism, sexism, ageism and any other ‘ism’ that you can think of.
“Because of this multi-cultural environment, racism comes up a lot in conflicts between expats and the Bahamian community especially when it came to benefits, salaries, titles and promotions etc,” Ms Carey alleged.
Ms Daniels, though, in her recollection of their encounter, confirmed the “ism” comments and said that Ms Carey had “heavily criticised the school and its employees, alleging that some were racist and sexist and law breakers”. As a result, she decided against pursuing the chief financial officer post with the Island School.
Mr Brooks, in his evidence, recalled how Mr Lloyd sent him and other executives an October 24, 2017, e-mail that described Ms Carey as “cutthroat” and how on the drive from the airport she “went into a verbal tirade about ‘how the white people at the Island School don’t like the blacks and think that the black are stupid’.
Stating that he “listened in shock and silence”, Mr Lloyd also claimed that Ms Carey alleged that the Island School was “refusing to hire more black teachers” and wanted to replace her with a white Bahamian. While the Island School rejected Mr Lloyd’s statements, it was moved to action when Ms Daniels explained why she did not take up the post of chief financial officer.
“There was great concern that the school had an employee within its ranks who was fundamentally disloyal to the school and actively sabotaging its reputation as well as its employee recruitment efforts,” Mr Brooks alleged, asserting that Ms Carey gave “no satisfactory or credible explanation” for her conduct when challenged a second time.
“The appeal [against termination] itself confirms the deeply jaundiced view that the plaintiff has of the school and her perception that the school is a racist organisation as she repeatedly refers to herself in the document as a ‘token black Bahamian’,” Mr Brooks said, alleging that it was subsequently discovered she had made similar remarks to others than Mr Lloyd and Ms Daniels.
The latter also recalled how Ms Carey had alleged the Island School was “breaking the law by hiring people without proper work permits”, referring to a purported incident where Chris Maxey “stormed” into her office allegedly demanding that 35 expatriate hires be brought in as visitors to get around Immigration regulations.
Mr Maxey, though, vehemently denied this version of events or that he asked Ms Carey to breach Bahamian Immigration law. “I was shocked and saddened to hear from Ms Daniels that Chenera Carey had described the Island School to her in disparaging terms as well,” Mr Maxey said in his evidence.
“The suggestion that the Island School is a sexist, racist, and law-breaking organisation is not only untrue but it goes against everything the Island School stands for and everything that the school has strived since inception to represent.”