Claim No: SCT 379/2022
THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE COURTS
In the name of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai
IN THE SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNAL
BEFORE SCT JUDGE MAITHA ALSHEHHI
|Hearing :||14 November 2022|
|Judgment :||23 November 2022|
JUDGMENT OF SCT JUDGE MAITHA ALSHEHHI
UPON this claim having been filed on 25 October 2022
AND UPON a hearing having been held before SCT Judge Maitha AlShehhi on 14 November 2022, with the Claimant and the Defendant’s representative in attendance
AND UPON reviewing the documents and evidence filed and recorded on the Court file
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. The Defendant shall pay the Claimant the amount of AED 6,226.66 representing the outstanding amounts owed to the Claimant.
2. The Defendant shall pay the Claimant the DIFC Courts filing fee in the amount of AED 367.25.
3. Each party shall bear their own costs.
Ayesha Bin Kalban
Date of Issue: 23 November 2022
1. The Claimant is Lihani (the “Claimant”), an individual filing a claim against the Defendant regarding his internship at the Defendant company.
2. The Defendant is Lufit (the “Defendant”), a company registered in the DIFC.
Background and the Preceding History
3. The underlying dispute arises over the internship of the Claimant within the Defendant company pursuant to an offer letter dated 20 April 2022 (the “Offer Letter”). The Claimant’s salary as per the Offer Letter is set out to be AED 2,500 per month.
4. The Offer Letter specified an internship period from 12 May 2022 until 26 August 2022 in the position of Business Development Representation.
5. The Offer Letter appears to be missing the Defendant’s signature despite the Claimant’s continuous follow up requesting that the Offer Letter be countersigned by the Defendant.
6. On 25 October 2022, the Claimant filed a claim with the DIFC Courts’ Small Claims Tribunal (the “SCT”) seeking the following relief:
(a) Salary payment of 3 months and 14 days in the amount of AED 8,666;
(b) Compensation in the amount of AED 60 for two meetings he secured during his internship as per the Offer Letter; and
(c) The Court fee applicable to the filing of this Claim.
7. On 31 October 2022, the Defendant filed its defence to the Claim alongside the acknowledgement of service form.
8. The parties attended a consultation before SCT Judge Hayley Norton on 3 November 2022. However, they were unable to reach a settlement with regards to the Claimant’s claims.
9. In line with the rules and procedures of the SCT, this matter was referred to me for determination, pursuant to a hearing held on 14 November 2022 (the “Hearing”).
10. The Claimant joined the Defendant’s company alongside a couple of his colleagues for the purpose of completing an internship as required by the Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai (the “University”) in order for him to complete his graduation requirements. The Claimant was mentored by the Defendant’s Managing Director at the time.
11. The difficulties between the parties arose when the Claimant was unable to secure a signed Offer Letter from the Defendant despite numerous follow ups. Even so, the Claimant submits that he still performed his duties as expected from him.
12. The Claimant’s case is that he did not receive any of the benefits associated with his internship from the Defendant as stated in the Offer Letter, although, he submits, he completed his full internship period i.e from 12 May 2022 to 26 August 2022.
13. The Claimant further submits that the Defendant failed to also provide him with an evaluation report as mandated and required by the University to testify that he concluded his internship period with the Defendant. The Claimant submits that this is which a common letter and practice to be provided by any company once an internship is completed.
14. The Claimant submits that he completed his full internship period. The first phase of the internship was virtual for two weeks then mandated a physical attendance to the Defendant’s premises until 29 July 2022. The Claimant submits that he resumed his tasks in the second phase by working remotely and studying from 29 July 2022 to 26 August 2022 to obtain a certificate for a programme that he was enrolled in by the Defendant.
15. The Claimant, in filing his claim, seeks payment in the amount of AED 8,726 for his outstanding salaries (from 12 May 2022 to 26 August 2022) in addition to compensation in the amount of AED 60.
16. The Defendant cites its reasoning for not signing the Offer Letter to be due to the University’s rejection of the Claimant’s referenced position as set out in the Offer Letter. The position of “Business Development Representation” differs from the positions that the Claimant’s colleagues took up in other organisations, which highlighted technical aspects of their roles. The Defendant submits it was unable to provide a title and role of that nature to the Defendant, and the business development role was the only role it could allocate to the Claimant.
17. The Defendant’s representative submits that all day-to-day tasks were handled by the Defendant’s Managing Director and not through him directly, and therefore the Defendant’s representative states that he is unaware of any agreements or discussions that might have occurred between the Managing Director and the Claimant.
18. The Defendant concedes that the Claimant was provided with a work phone, laptop and an email address to perform his duties.
19. The Defendant representative asserts that, around the months June–July 2022, he became aware of the Claimant’s shortcomings and submits that the Claimant performing his duties according to standards, in addition to tardiness in attending work. Consequently, the Defendant’s representative decided to terminate the Claimant’s tenure with the Defendant on 29 July 2022.
20. At the Hearing, the Defendant accepted that the Claimant is eligible for his allowance but takes the view that the Claimant’s entitlement to payment would accrue until until 29 July 2022, which is the date the Claimant’s internship was terminated.
21. The Defendant confiscated the Claimant’s mobile, laptop and removed all access to any portal or system within the Defendant’s company effective from 29 July 2022. Thus, the Defendant is of the opinion that the Claimant is only entitled to his dues up until the termination date.
22. The Defendant submits that the termination was handed down verbally and no official letter was ever produced. At the Hearing, the Claimant confirmed that the Defendant did indeed take all of his belongings on 29 July 2022 but rejected the alleged termination.
23. The Defendant denies the Claimant’s allegations that he was asked to work remotely and complete the online certificate, and states that the termination on 29 July 2022 was final and no further work was expected from the Claimant.
24. The dispute is governed by the Offer Letter as the Employment Law DIFC Law No.2 of 2019 (the “Employment Law”) does not cover internships in the DIFC.
25. The Claimant rejects the Defendant’s assertion that his role was rejected, making this statement on the basis that the University already approved his job description which is evidenced in an email correspondence sent from the University to the Claimant.
26. As stated above, the Defendant admits that there are outstanding amounts to be paid to the Claimant as an “allowance” for his internship period from 12 May 2022 to 29 July 2022 only. His reasoning for this is that the Claimant was terminated on 29 July 2022. Thus, the Defendant takes the position that having removed all online access on that date, the Claimant was unable to complete any work thereafter.
27. In essence, the disagreement between the parties pertains to whether the Claimant is eligible for his 3 months and 14 days salary as per the Offer Letter and whether the remote working was part of the internship programme set up for students.
28. At the Hearing, I asked the Claimant whether he has any written evidence demonstrating the Defendant’s direction for the Claimant work remotely in order to obtain his second certification with the Defendant. The Claimant confirmed that such conversations only occurred verbally with the Managing Director at the time, and it was well known that he would complete his studies and continue to work remotely for the certification.
29. With regards to the remote working/studying aspect, I asked the Claimant at the Hearing whether he had actually completed the certificate and to provide a proof of such completion and he confirmed that he did not on the basis that it was “hard”.
30. The Defendant denies that the Claimant was ever asked to work remotely and to take this certificate, and submits that such certification is not designed for the Claimant as it is more equipped to professionals in the field and is not suited to the Claimant’s qualifications.
31. It is worth mentioning that there is no formal termination letter issued by the Defendant against the Claimant. Therefore, the Court is unable to verify that the Claimant indeed was terminated on that date, and I am only assisted with the fact that all of the Claimant’s office belongings were removed and all online access to the Defendant’s systems were blocked on that date. This could be alluded to the Defendant’s intention that the Claimant is no longer required to attend to any of his duties in the company.
32. If I were to rely on the Employment Law, then there would be a requirement for the Defendant to have a written notice for termination. However, this internship is not governed by the Employment Law.
33. Pursuant to the removal of the Claimant’s access to the online system and having all devices taken away from him, the Claimant failed to demonstrate as to how he could still have access to complete his studies for the certification especially since he did not have any of the work devices which would enable him to log in to the portal, in addition to the fact that his email access was also blocked. Fundamentally, the burden of proof is on the Claimant.
34. Despite the fact that the Claimant’s access was removed by the Defendant on 29 July 2022, I note that the Offer Letter does not entail that the Claimant is required to complete an online certificate nor is there any reference to this in any email correspondence between the parties.
35. Given that there is no proof or evidence submitted by the Claimant that reveals that he had been asked to take this online certificate in the first place and nor is there reference to it in the Offer Letter, and in addition to that, the Claimant did not end up completing his certificate, I am of the view that the Claimant is not entitled to his salary for the period he worked remotely for the lack of admissible evidence to demonstrate the Claimant’s actual attendance to this.
36. I would have indulged in the Claimant’s request if he had indeed completed the certificate and provided proof of completion, even if there is no mention of such a requirement to be obtained by the Claimant.
37. I now turn to the Claimant’s first request which is the payment of salary, given that the Defendant has no objection to the Claimant’s dues until 29 July 2022 and that there is proof that the Claimant indeed was working until this date, I am of the view that the Claimant must be paid the amount of AED 6,166.66 (AED 1,166.66 on pro rata basis for the month of May + AED 2,500 for the month of June and AED 2,500 for the month of July).
38. With regards to the remaining period from 29 July 2022 to 26 August 2022, I am of the view that the Claimant is not eligible for payment for the reasons set out above.
39. As to the Claimant’s claim for AED 60 compensation, as the Defendant has not objected to this, I am satisfied to award this in favour of the Claimant. As such, the total amount to be awarded to the Claimant is AED 6,226.66.
40. In light of the abovementioned, I hereby order that the Defendant shall pay the Claimant the amount of AED 6,226.66.
41. The Defendant shall pay the Claimant the DIFC Courts filing fee in the amount of AED 367.25.
42. Each party shall bear their own costs.