Court rules against senior manager axed for poor performance

KUALA LUMPUR: A former senior sales manager at a telecommunications company was not constructively dismissed by his employer four years ago, the Industrial Court has ruled.

Instead, Jerald Wong Thai Hian, 39, “walked out of his employment” after his employer, ICE Mobile Sdn Bhd, took him to task for his poor sales performance record, the court found.

In a 37-page written award published this week, court chairman Sarojini Kandasamy chastised Wong for blaming his poor sales numbers on the company’s technology platform, which he claimed was unable to cope with the demands of his customers.

“I find that throughout this hearing, this is generally the claimant’s excuse to account for his lacklustre sales performance,” said Sarojini.

“However, based on evidence, the same technology platform did not affect the performance of the rest of the sales team.”

Sarojini said Wong was well aware that his poor performance had been the subject of scrutiny by the company’s ex-CEO Bala Balamurali since 2011.

In 2012, Wong even apologised in writing to Bala for his poor sales figures. In response, he was told that his performance was being watched closely, the court noted.

Despite this, the court found that Wong only achieved 28% of his sales target the following year.

Reacting to current CEO Suresh Kumar’s testimony that Wong only achieved 42% of his sales target in 2014, Sarojini noted that Wong’s performance was “substantially below the overall achievement by the sales team” which stood at 76% of the company’s sales budget.

“His performance was even more stark because the sales team as a whole exceeded the company’s sales projection for Q1 of 2015,” she added.

The court said when Suresh confronted Wong about his poor sales record in May 2015, Wong volunteered to resign provided that he received monetary compensation.

The company declined to pay, and his services were terminated eight days later.

However, barely a week into his notice period of three months, Wong claimed that he had been constructively dismissed.

“In my considered view, the company had reasonable grounds supported by cogent and concrete evidence upon which to issue the letter of termination,” Sarojini wrote.

She also questioned Wong’s choice of attire at a meeting with the CEO on May 27 for which he came dressed “in slippers, a pair of dirty shorts and an old T-shirt”.

“He was aware that he must be properly attired and exhibit proper decorum as that befitting a senior manager,” she said.

She said Wong’s action showed “utter disrespect for Suresh by being insubordinate and defiant” in the presence of a superior.

She also said the claim of forced resignation was an “afterthought”, adding that Wong’s refusal to return to work was insubordination and a breach of his employment contract.