Sacked IT Employee Reinstated And Deemed As A ‘Workman’ Under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

Posted On - 27 July, 2022 • By - Rohan Chinnappa

The Principal Labour Court at Chennai in the case of Thirumalai Selvan Shanmugam vs. Tata Consultancy Service Limited[1] reinstated a sacked IT employee and deemed the sacked employee as a ‘Workman’ as per section 2(s)[2] of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (“ID Act”). The brief facts of the case are as follows: the petitioner had joined the respondent company as an ‘Assistant System Engineer’, later was subsequently promoted as an ‘IT Analyst’ and lastly was promoted to the position of a ‘Test Manager’. The petitioner contended that since his main duties and responsibilities are maintaining the respondent Company’s IT infrastructure, installing any updates in the business machines, troubleshooting problems, installing software updates and assisting the respondent company’s clients on a daily basis, he was merely undertaking duties and responsibilities that are technical and clerical.

Furthermore, the Petitioner contended that since the job required technical and clerical expertise he would fall under the definition of a ‘Workman’ and would therefore be liable to receive all the benefits under Section 25(f)[3]  upon retrenchment.

The respondent company on the other hand contended that since the petitioner-employee was supervising 5 other test engineers as a Test Manager, he could not be considered as a ‘Workman’ under section 2(s) of the ID Act and hence not liable for retrenchment benefits under Section 25(f) of the ID Act.

The court while taking into consideration the merits of the case held that the sole reason for the respondent company to retrench the petitioner along with 25000 other people was solely for commercial purposes as subsequently 55,000 new freshers were hired. The court accepted the petitioner’s contention that his job was technical and clerical in nature and hence he would fall under the definition of a ‘Workman.’  Furthermore, the court emphasised that his task of supervising as a Test Manager was a part of the responsibilities allotted to him and his principal duty was to provide technical assistance to the respondent company. The respondent company had informed the Hon’ble court that they could not pay any amounts as retrenchment compensation, therefore, to remedy this, the court subsequently ordered the reinstatement of the petitioner-employee.

[1] I.D.No.34/2016

[2] Section 2(s) : “workman” means any person (including an apprentice) employed in any industry to do any manual, unskilled, skilled, technical, operational, clerical or supervisory work for hire or reward, whether the terms of employment be express or implied, and for the purposes of any proceeding under this Act in relation to an industrial dispute, includes any such person who has been dismissed, discharged or retrenched in connection with, or as a consequence of, that dispute, or whose dismissal, discharge or retrenchment has led to that dispute, but does not include any such person- (i) who is subject to the Air Force Act, 1950 (45 of 1950), or the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950), or the Navy Act, 1957 (62 of 1957); or (ii) who is employed in the police service or as an officer or other employee of a prison, or (iii) who is employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity, or (iv) who, being employed in a supervisory capacity, draws wages exceeding one thousand six hundred rupees per mensem or exercises, either by the nature of the duties attached to the office or by reason of the powers vested in him, functions mainly of a managerial nature.

[3] Section 25 (f) : Conditions precedent to retrenchment of workmen.- No workman employed in any industry who has been in continuous service for not less than one year under an employer shall be retrenched by that employer until- (a) the workman has been given one month’s notice in writing indicating the reasons for retrenchment and the period of notice has expired, or the workman has been paid in lieu of such notice, wages for the period of the notice: (b) the workman has been paid, at the time of retrenchment, compensation which shall be equivalent to fifteen days’ average pay for every completed year of continuous service or any part thereof in excess of six months; and (c) notice in the prescribed manner is served on the appropriate Government or such authority as may be specified by the appropriate Government by notification in the Official Gazette.