Rishatha Nicholls, to whom the court has awarded EC$139,000 after her former boss, then Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace defamed her in 2013, says the money will not be enough to meet her family’s outstanding expenses.
“They are significant. It wouldn’t cover everything but it will, in fact, deal with that which can be covered and when I get back a job, then over time, you will just — you know — put your life better,” Nicholls told iWitness News on Sunday.
“I thank God and I appreciate because the intent and the objective was just to get clarity on it,” she said.
On Sept. 30, 2019, Master Emin Moise ordered that Eustace, who is member of Parliament for East Kingstown, pay Nicholls EC$120,000 in general damages, and prescribed cost of EC$17,500 and cost of EC$1,500 on the assessment of damages.
The order follows after Justice Esco Henry held in a July 12, 2018 judgement that Eustace defamed Nicholls in comments he made on radio on April 23 and 24, 2014.
Eustace fired Nicholls in March 2013, after almost 12 years as his secretary.
She brought a claim of unfair dismissal before the Hearing Officer of the Department of Labour, who ruled that Nicholls was unfairly terminated.
Eustace appealed that ruling, and the Appeals Tribunal of the Department of Labour, on March 14, 2014, upheld the decision of the Hearing Officer and ordered that Nicholls be compensated in the sum of EC$16,199.99, which Eustace paid.
But he went on to make, on radio, comments that Nicholls complained about and which the court held were in fact defamatory, rejecting Eustace’s fair comment defence.
Nicholls told iWitness News that the award of damages did not surprise her, though this was not her pursuit when she filed the lawsuit.
“The decision of the court is expected, it is pleasing because the issues, the intent was to clarify my name so that I could have a clear reputation as it was initially.
“I had a reputation and it was affected. I had to go to court to get it resolved, and then the court would have looked to it and restore unto my right.”
Asked if the amount awarded was expected, Nicholls said:
“Well, to be honest, I initially wasn’t even studying money. I was trying to get my whole stuff cleared. I really do not know the formula of the court as the judge would sit and do an assessment from the law. So it is not something that I could criticise. That is in the fair judgement of the law that this is what I must be awarded. I accept the judge’s decision.”
Nicholls, a resident of East Kingstown, which Eustace has been representing in Parliament since 1998, said she has not worked since 2013.
Asked if she thought this was partly as a result of what Eustace had said about her, Nicholls said, “It is what caused the problem of not being employed one way or the other, either in the public sector or the private sector.”
She said that “most likely” her prospects for employment would improve now.
“I am hoping so given the fact that our country is a country of laws. There is the protection of employment law that stipulates employee and employer behaviour and once the authority of the law, which is the court, recognise that there was no violation on my part with any of the laws of the country, I am hoping to be gainfully employed and soon.”
Nicholls said that since being fired, the members of her family “had to remain focused and do our individual part.
“It was what it was. Our struggle was real and we survived. We made it through and we thank God for that.”
Nicholls said that since Eustace fired her, the only relationship they have had is when they exchanged greetings at the Labour Department or in court.