The College of the North Atlantic in Qatar is appealing a decision of the Qatari courts that could cost it millions of dollars.
It stems from a lawsuit that was launched by former employees of the college, who are trying to get a severance payment to which they feel they are entitled under Qatari law.
"It is common in the middle east for employers to give employees an end of service gratuity' which is usually one month's pay for each year worked - as an incentive for people to stay and not run' like a lot of people do in the Gulf States," says one of my sources at the college. "When CONA Qatar started in 2002 CONA NL decided that employees there were not eligible for these end of service bonuses - for whatever reason. Recently three employees turned to the Qatar courts to try and get the end of service bonuses as part of the CONA Qatar employees' benefits - because a lot of employees felt that they are entitled to it. The justice system in Qatar agreed with the employees - two court cases (one for 2 employees and another for 1) have been won to date but CONA is appealing it to the higher court."
My source also says that, if the appeal is not successful, the college will pay the money to employees who request it (former employees need to request it in writing), but then sue to get it back "because the contracts state that employees are not entitled to it."
That sounds like a bit of a stretch, since the college has to abide by the laws of the country where it operates.
If the decision of the Qatari court stands, the college will have to pay an enormous sum of money.
"They have around 500 employees at present and have may have 200 or so former employees," says my source. "Contracts are typically three years, so that's 700 employees times 3 months pay. If average pay is $5000 a month that would be more than $10 million. Imagine them trying to get that money out of the Qataris - it might have to come out of CONA's coffers!"
I ran this information past another of my sources in Qatar, who confirmed it and added more detail.
"That is pretty accurate," said my source, who added that the college's administration were not aware of the End of Service Gratuity and did not write it into their agreement with the Qataris.
The three former employees filed the lawsuits after they asked for the gratuity but were turned down. It would be safe to say that many employees are watching the see the results of the appeal and will likely follow suit if the employees are successful.
There is a CNA job discussion board that allows participants to talk anonymously (and thus quite frankly) about this and other related subjects. One poster claims and I don't have this confirmed that:
"In a latest very confusing e-mail from (management), it has been mentioned that CNAQ will start withholding a portion of employee's salary to be paid out as end-of-service benefit to them. They are withholding my money to pay me later"
To read more candid opinions on this subject, go to the ESL Café discussion forum. (Give it a minute to load.)
Meanwhile, my source says that an employee survey was conducted at the college earlier this month, adding that the results "should be interesting."
UPDATE: I just received word from both of my contacts that the appeals court in Qatar - apparently the highest court in that country - ruled today against CNA Qatar. This means that the college has no more appeal options and has lost the case.