Harding v Bootlegger Inn Ltd

JudgeHusbands, J.,Belgrave, J.
Judgment Date29 June 1990
Docket NumberNo. 128 of 1989
CourtDivisional Court (Barbados)
Date29 June 1990

Divisional Court

Husbands, J.; Belgrave, J.

No. 128 of 1989

Bootlegger Inn Ltd.

Mr. W. LeRoy Inniss for the appellant

Mr. Mark Goodridge of Messrs Walcott, Jones and Goodridge for the respondent.

Industrial law - Contract of service — Termination — Whether dismissal wrongful — Appellant a hotel maid took food from hotel's guest room — Whether single act of misconduct justified summary dismissal — Matter serious one which justified summary dismissal.


The appellant was employed as a room service maid by the defendant at its hotel, the Pirates Inn, Hastings, Christ Church. She had been so employed for some 5 years. On the 11th August, 1986, she received from the manager of the hotel a letter of dismissal in the following terms –

11th August, 1986.

Dear Miss Harding,

By your admission to me on the telephone on 03 August, 1986, and subsequent admission to Labour Officer Mr. Charles Lewis of the Labour Department on 11th August, 1986, you admitted having taken goods from the Rivas/Rosales families on 03 August, 1986, without the consent of either the guests or myself. It therefore leaves me with no alternative but to dismiss you with immediate effect, on the grounds of theft.

Enclosed herewith is cheque #847167 for $372.64 Bds for 4 weeks holiday pay due to you.

Yours faithfully

Elizabeth Grant.”


She was dissatisfied and filed a suit in the magistrate's court for wrongful dismissal. The magistrate dismissed the action.


The circumstances leading to her dismissal were as follows:


On the morning of 3rd August, 1986, the plaintiff went to work. As was customary she examined the folder with the print-out. The print-out, printed in duplicate, is prepared by management and sets out, among other things, the status of the various guest rooms. According to the system the rooms which are to be vacated that day are listed as “checkout” rooms and are cleaned after 12 noon. Rooms which are to be retained for the use or convenience of guests after 12 noon are designated as “hospitality” rooms. According to the appellant, it is the custom that the cleaning maid retains and keeps for her own use and benefit any food item found in a “checkout” room. The manager of the hotel did not dispute this. However, it was agreed by all that no such custom or privilege applied in the case of a “hospitality” room.


The appellant claimed that on the morning of 3rd August, 1986, room 71 at the hotel was listed on the printout as a “checkout” room. She cleaned the room about 1 p.m. No clothes or toiletries were present and the room key was on the table. In the room she found the following unused items of foodstuffs –


2 cartons of milk, 2 packages of cheese, 2 packages of ham rolls and a sandwich loaf of bread, to a total value of about $21.00.


Following the custom she appropriated these and took them to her home sometime after 3 p.m. About 6 p.m. the same day, the manager of the hotel phoned asking if she had taken the foodstuff from the room. She said she had.


The appellant's evidence in chief is –

“She asked if I could bring back the foodstuffs. I said to her no. She asked if I could get a taxi and bring them. I asked her who is going to pay for the taxi. She replied I'll have to pay for it myself. I did not take the goods back.”


Under cross-examination the appellant expanded on the telephone conversation –

“I had a telephone call between 6 and 7. She asked me if I did room 71. I said yes. She explained to me that I had taken the purchase which Mr. Reifer had purchased for himself and his family. She also told me Mr. Rivas has said he has purchased it that morning for supper that afternoon. A question was also raised about compensation for Mr. Rivas. She said she was going to deduct the money out of my week's pay. She said she was going to give them money to go and get supper. She also told me the figure of $50. She told me she would deduct it from my wages. I told her I was cooking. I could not leave my stove burning. I told her I don't have any transportation. She told me to catch a taxi. You don't go in a hospitality room at all. If it is listed as a check out you would go in.”


The manager's version of the incident was that on the morning of 3rd August, 1986, room 71 was listed as a “hospitality” room. The manager produced the office...

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