A large backlog of appeal cases before the Labour Appeals Tribunal (LAT) has been stumbled on during an investigation by the Cayman Islands Ombudsman into an outstanding matter.
A complaint filed by a Cayman resident who waited more than six months to have his employer’s appeal heard led to the discovery of 11 cases that have been delayed outside statutory timelines.
The delays ranged from just a few months to almost two years in some cases.
The LAT is required by law to hear appeal cases in three months.
The backlog was discovered as part of a maladministration investigation into the LAT being carried by the Cayman Islands Ombudsman, Sandy Hermiston, with the assistance of the Department of Labour and Pensions (DLP).
Ms Hermiston, said: “It is simply not fair to make workers or companies wait so long for a hearing. It defeats the original purpose of the tribunal.”
She said this amounted to maladministration, defined as ineffective or inefficient management of public affairs.
“To delay justice is an injustice,” the Ombudsman stated, adding that “the LAT and DLP have agreed with our findings and have pledged to resolve the situation forthwith.”
One method the DLP and LAT have suggested, particularly given the current situation with COVID-19, is to hold appeals hearings via Zoom or other virtual meeting technologies, making it easier to assemble the parties involved.
The first such virtual appeal hearing was conducted Friday, 5 June.
The Ombudsman has also recommended that the LAT be adequately staffed to avoid such backlogs recurring.
DLP Director Bennard Ebanks committed to addressing “the staffing challenges identified by the Ombudsman as the DLP will now be directly involved in measures to ensure the LAT is staffed properly to address the backlog in hearings.”
He explained that the Labour Appeals Tribunal (LAT) operates independently of the DLP.
“I value the input of all of our stakeholders in order to make the DLP, and independent Tribunals system better, and is an example of the complaints procedures, and subsequent investigation resulting in recommended changes for improvement,” Mr Ebanks said in a statement.
Ombudsman Hermiston commented that “this type of cooperation from the DLP and LAT with our investigations is appreciated and will only help improve public administration in Cayman.”
She added that “the goal of our office is to promote good governance. This is rarely accomplished by simply identifying problems or mistakes without making positive and constructive recommendations which entities then act upon.”
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