Former Imperial Group employee sues CEO for R18.3m

2017-08-07 21:36
Advocate Dali Mpofu (Gallo Images)

Advocate Dali Mpofu (Gallo Images)

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Johannesburg – A former employee of Associated Motor Holdings is suing the CEO of the parent company for R18.3m after she got fired, allegedly due to racism and gender discrimination.

Adila Chowan was promised the position of chief financial officer at AMH, her lawyer Dali Mpofu told the High Court in Pretoria on Monday.

"Those promises were broken and in the process of breaking them, utterances were made to the effect that she was a black woman, employment equity candidate, and therefore, she can leave if she likes. She is technically competent, but she is not going to get the job," he told Judge Piet Meyer.

Mpofu said Chowan felt insulted by these utterances.

"She felt discriminated against because she did not see the necessity of being objectified as a black person or a woman."

Imperial Holdings, with its CEO Mark Lamberti, is the parent company of AMH. Chowan laid a complaint against Lamberti and addressed the letter to the chairperson of the group.

Mpofu said Chowan was suspended, subjected to a disciplinary hearing, and dismissed.

Mpofu said due to that unlawful conduct of the employer, Chowan lost her job and had since found it difficult to find further employment. She was earning about R2m per annum.

The claim was for reputational damage and loss of further career opportunity, arising from a breach of her employment contract.

Chowan was appointed group financial manager of AMH in 2012.

Another claim relates to the humiliation Chowan claims she suffered.

In a grievance letter addressed to then chairperson of the board of Imperial Group, Thulani Gcabashe, Chowan said a man named Peter Habbit was appointed CFO on a two-year contract.

'Totally distraught'

She was told she would be appointed to the position subsequently.

In a meeting with Lamberti on June 20, 2014, Lamberti asked her if her CEO had informed her that she would not be considered for the position.

"I was totally distraught by hearing this. Mark Lamberti went further and said that if I gave my respect and full support to the CFO, he would promise me two things: one, I will be financially well compensated and two, will be given a career path one year from that year."

On June 25, 2014, Chowan handed her resignation to then CFO Harvey Adler. She did not appreciate the "unfair process and treatment" she had received.

Lamberti and Imperial’s CFO Osman Arbee asked Chowan to stay on at AMH.

"During March 2015, the new CFO, Ockert Janse van Rensburg, advised me that he does not see me being appointed to the CFO position of AMH as Mr Lamberti did not think I was the right candidate."

On April 15, 2015, Chowan told Lamberti, Arbee, Janse van Rensburg, and Manny de Cahna that she was looking for a job outside Imperial because she could not handle the way she was being treated.

"I was insulted and told by Mark Lamberti that he does not have anything against me, and that I am a female, employment equity candidate, technically competent but that I require three to four years to develop my leadership skills.

"The comment was totally unprofessional and unacceptable. I was made to feel the only reason I was even employed in the Imperial Group was because I am an employment equity employee."

Chowan said Lamberti reneged on his promise to train and promote her.

"I believe that I was racially discriminated against as I do not believe, nor accept, that I lack leadership skills."

Chowan said the CFO who was subsequently appointed was a white male.

The case continues.

Read more on:    dali mpofu  |  racism

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