About a year ago, the Embassy of Zambia in Washington, terminated the contract of a locally recruited staff and reportedly refused to pay her the balance of Final Entitlement.
Bu now Dolores. A. Barot has taken the embassy to the US authorities in a case where the Zambian government may end up paying money if the case succeeds.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken up the Complaint against the Embassy and is currently investigating if the Zambian embassy flouted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
The Embassy of Zambia in Washington, DC has been cited as Respondent to the EEOC Charge No. 570-2010-01532, the Watchdog has been fully briefed.
The Embassy has been served with the Complaint which the Embassy has to answer within a given period of time. The Office of Human Rights in the District of Columbia was also sent a copy of the Charge.
The Diplomats involved in this case are Dr. Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika (former Ambassador); Minister Counsellor Mr. Alfred Chioza; First Secretary (Accounts), Mr. Frank Mbewe; and First Secretary (Political and Administration), Mr. Chembo Felix Mbula.
Barot explained to the Watchdog that ” I am not challenging a governmental act, but was merely seeking compliance with the Employment Act and other laws. I am just fighting for my Right.”
She said that ” On September 8,  I submitted a request for salary increase. On September 9, 2009, I had a meeting with FS (Pol. & Admin.), Mr. Chembo Felix Mbula and FS (Accounts), Mr. Frank Mbewe regarding my request. On September 10, 2009 I was abruptly placed under Indefinite Administrative Leave (IAL) for no particular/specific reasons.
“On November 24, 2009 I received my Termination letter retroactively effective 31 October, 2009 signed on November 5, 2009 and was postmarked/mailed on November 23, 2009. (18 days after the letter was signed)
“My termination was manipulated. I was placed under IAL without any prior offenses or warnings. I was not given an opportunity to be heard because there was no specific charge against me. It is just logical that no hearing was done because there was nothing to be heard.
These Diplomats have immunity, however, it does not mean that they could dismiss an employee at will without any justification.”
She insists that ‘My right under 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (Procedural Due Process) has been violated. My Employment was terminated without due process.”
She said that she was unlawfully terminated, yet her Terminal Benefits were not paid on the date of her termination (31 October, 2009 and 30 November, 2009).
” It was received on December 7, 2009 and on February 1, 2010, yet the amounts were understated, I was still underpaid,” she said.
“…there are two (2) dates of my Termination. As per Embassy’s Letter, my Employment was terminated, effective 31 October, 2009. As to the Notification of Termination to the State Department dated December 3, 2009, the effective date of my Termination was 30 November, 2009. There is inconsistency in dates.”
“On April 21, 2010, I sent a demand letter to the Embassy for the balance of my final entitlement plus the 50% salary for November 1-24, 2009, (the date that I received my Termination Letter) and additional 2 days for my accumulated leave.
“On May 1, 2010, I received the Embassy’s reply to my demand. Instead of the Embassy paying me, the Embassy was demanding payment from me because in the attached Computation to their Letter, the Embassy omitted my one month unused leave for 2009, thus it really showed that I was overpaid. The Officials were too proud not to accept their mistake, that they altered the said Statement,’ She explained.
Borot is of the view that the diplomats treated her unfairly because they were hiding under diplomatic immunity. But she feels that the diplomatic immunity has exceptions.
She explained that ” The Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act – Zambia: Chapter 20 – Article 31 (c):
Article 31 (c)
A Diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, except in the case of:
(c) an action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside of his official functions.
My Contract of Employment is commercial activity in nature, thus the Zambian Diplomats are not immune from civil suit.
It is stated in Article 31 (4):
“The immunity of a diplomatic agent from the jurisdiction of the receiving State (USA) does not exempt him from the jurisdiction of the sending State (Zambia).”
She said that “since these diplomats had abused their authorities to the detriment and shame of the Zambian Government and Her people, these officials should be accountable for their actions when they were back in Zambia.”
Barot believes that other Zambian diplomats will learn a lesson from this because “the Zambia Embassy had previously terminated so many locally engaged staff without due process, especially those in the Ambassador’s Residence, who were even brought from Zambia.”
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