Court rejects claims against USJ by Eric Sautedé

Scholar Eric Sautedé

The Court of First Instance (TJB) has reached a verdict and rejected all claims filed by Eric Sautedé, a former senior lecturer at the University of Saint Joseph (USJ), who accused the institution of unfairly dismissing him.
“The plaintiff’s grounds and claims against the defendant are not established and in consequence, all claims are rejected,” Sautedé was notified by the TJB’s ruling report yesterday.
Sautedé’s dismissal from USJ occurred in June 2014. The dismissal was alleged to have taken place due to Sautedé’s political comments and values — which were not in line with USJ’s principles of not becoming involved in political debates.
In 2014, Sautedé filed a lawsuit against USJ, hoping to be awarded a total of MOP1.3 million in compensation for his unfair dismissal — MOP800,000 of which was to be for material damages and the remainder for damage to his reputation.
Sautedé said earlier that he was unable to obtain a job after dismissal, and attributed this to being labeled as a “political activist” and “troublemaker” in the wake of the event.
In an earlier court hearing, Peter Stilwell, the former rector of the USJ, stated that Sautedé was dismissed by USJ without just cause due to his political remarks.
USJ regarded his dismissal – even without just cause – as legal and legitimate. However, Sautedé refuted the claim by arguing that the dismissal was illegal, as it violated the right to freedom of expression and academic freedom, and the principle of equality and non-discrimination stipulated in the Basic Law.
The TJB confirmed that Sautedé’s dismissal did not violate his academic freedom and freedom of speech, as the USJ Rector did not bar him from making political comments at the time.
The court stated that public remarks made by Stilwell as to the reasons behind the dismissal are considered irrelevant and that it was legitimate to fire the academic without just cause.
The court also stated that the dismissal did not mar Sautedé’s reputation since there was no wrongdoing implied in the dismissal and he was fully employable after the dismissal.
Furthermore, the court stated there was no abuse of labor rights by USJ as it offered Sautedé a sum equivalent to five-weeks’ salary following his dismissal.
“Although I have to accept the judge’s ruling in the first instance – all this after six years, I have no other choice but to appeal against the judgment,” Sautedé said in a statement sent to the Times.

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