Q&A: Unfair Dismissal

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Question:

I worked for a Muslim employer for more than 18 years. Lately I was dismissed on a flimsy excuse. While the real reason is not known, it appears to me that due to the economic downturn he is shedding staff to cut costs. I have already started proceedings to sue for unfair dismissal but a friend tells me that Islamically I am not entitled to do so. Is this true? 

 

Answer:

As an introduction to the answer, a brief discussion on the importance of correct mu`aamalaat (monetary dealings) in Shari`ah is appropriate.

It is reported in the Hadith that on the Day of Qiyaamah many people will come with numerous good deeds to their credit. However, they had also trampled the rights of people such as committing oppression, swearing at someone, hitting somebody, usurping wealth and the like. The victims (who were sworn at, or whose wealth was usurped, etc.) will come to claim compensation for the injustice done to them in the world. They will be given the good deeds of the oppressor. If the oppressor’s good deeds are exhausted before all the claims are settled, the victim’s sins will be loaded onto him in return. As a result, he will be thrown into the fire of Hell.

What greater tragedy can there be than a person losing mountains of good deeds on the Day of Judgement and being thrown into Hell? The rewards of Salaah, Hajj, Umrah, charity and other righteous deeds are all lost because of swearing, usurping wealth, oppression, etc. 

 

RIGHTS OF EMPLOYER AND EMPLOYEE 

In the business world, at times employers are guilty of such excesses. Often employees complain about their Muslim employers using vulgar languages against them. Besides being sinful, such appalling behaviour distances non-Muslim staff from Islam. Some employers make desperate employees work under severe conditions or do not pay workers fully what is due to them. Such actions bring disastrous consequences in this world and the Hereafter. Likewise, sometimes employees trample the rights of the employer by deliberately not fulfilling their duties or not fulfilling the time agreed upon by both parties. Such an employee will also have to pay back on the Day of Qiyaamah. May Allah Ta’ala save us...Therefore, both employer and employee should take extreme care in this regard.

As for suing the employer for unfair dismissal, this is impermissible. Though the law of the land allows such claims, a Muslim should wholeheartedly submit to the law of the Shariah and refrain from making impermissible claims.

It is narrated in Sahih Bukhari that Hazrath Sa’d bin abi Waqqas (R.A.) was appointed (and employed) as the governor of Kufah. The people of Kufah laid several complaints against him. Hazrath Umar (R.A.) investigated the complaints and found them to be untrue. He nevertheless still dismissed Hazrath Sa’d (R.A.) from his post for whatever reason he deemed necessary. Neither did Hazrath Sa’d (R.A.) or any of the Sahaaba (R.A.) object to this dismissal due to it being “unfair.” This amounted to a consensus of the Sahaaba (R.A.) that Hazrath Umar (R.A.) had the right to dismiss him even though there was no stated reason for doing so.

 

MUTUAL AGREEMENT

In a monthly employment situation, where there is no mutual agreement binding the parties to a contract for a fixed duration, both parties are at liberty to terminate the employment at the end of the month (Itr Hidayah pg. 253/262). The employer cannot impose upon the employee to continue working for him if the latter wishes to leave. If the employee leaves without any genuine reason, it cannot be termed as unfair to the employer. Likewise, the employee cannot insist upon the employer to continue hiring him. This is the Shari`ah position. Therefore, in such a situation if a Muslim employee sues for “unfair dismissal”, this will not be valid. Such claims will in reality be usurping another person’s wealth. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported to have said: “The wealth of a Muslim is not permissible except with his wholehearted permission.” Accordingly such action is not permissible. Indeed, employers are urged to deal compassionately with their employees, especially in the present economic climate. One can nevertheless not impose employment upon anyone.

May Allah Ta`ala enable us to fulfil every person’s rights and save us from any action which will cause us to lose our good deeds on the Day of Qiyaamah. Aameen.  

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