Company refutes claim, says facts are misrepresented.
A lady who identified herself as Margaret Olusola has called out Papilon Plastics Company, alleging them of refusing to help her late father, Festus Kolawole Oladunjoye when he had a workplace accident that killed him 6 months later.
The lady made this claim against Papilon Plastics Company in virtual calls hosted by the Occupational Health, Safety and Empowerment Centre (HOSEC) Legal Aid Clinic and monitored by HSENations.
According to Margaret, her father had a “workplace accident” and instead of providing cost for his medical care, the company closed down the depot where he worked, stopped his salary, promised to process his medical insurance but couriered employment termination letter to him with a meagre sum of N17, 210.
She further alleged that after his death, the company requested his death certificate to process an insurance claim, amidst their claims that Late Kolawole was no longer in their employment.
These series of events left late Kolawale’s family devastated, prompting them to approach a legal body for appropriate action.
Speaking with HSENations, Margaret said that her late Father, Kolawole joined Papilon Plastics Company in 2018, a company that has its head office in Sango Ota, Ogun State as a Sales Representative to its depot in Sagamu area of the state.
Margaret explained that all was well until tragedy struck on the 18th of November 2029 when Festus had an accident while returning home from his usual sales trip for the company and consequently, fractured his leg.
Margaret explained that Kolawale immediately informed the Company’s Salesforce dedicated WhatsApp group — where his immediate bosses also belong — about the tragedy that befell him on the incident day.
According to her, group members poured in condolence messages upon receiving the news. She said, “People greeted him on the platform, which his immediate boss, Mr Ankit, and Mr Giri, were part of”.
“Mr Ankit, his immediate boss, also posted on that platform that he had to see him on that day because the fracture was serious”, Margaret added.
The WhatsApp Group
HSENations enquired if the WhatsApp group was a formal communication channel. In response, Margaret said that the WhatsApp Platform was where the Papilon Plastics Company sales team communicates its daily operations and marketing activities.
“In that same platform, there was a time that they gave my father target and he was unable to meet this target. It was on that same platform that they said his money should be deducted, which was deducted”, She said
Medical Bills Piling Up, No response from Company’s Head Office
Magaret told HSENations that before her late father started going to Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH) on the 6th of January, 2020, he had first started the leg treatment at a private hospital. But when his health deteriorated and hospital bills were piling up, the family became desperate for financial help from the company.
Apart from the visit of his immediate boss, Mr Ankit, and the floods of WhatsApp condolence messages, Margaret said since informing the company in the early days of the accident “we did not see them. So, we started calling them”.
“My father did the calling; I wasn’t the one calling them. But whenever he called them, he will communicate with me, because I was very close (to him). I know 70% of what he did”.
Sagamu Depot Closed
Margaret revealed that with his health troubles, her Father visited his office, the Sagamu Depot of Papilon Plastics Company, but discovered the place had been shut down.
According to her, her Father was not privy to any prior conversation that the depot would be shut. But upon complaint, his immediate Boss, Mr Ankit said “…that the thing was an urgent order from the head office and he didn’t know what had happened” promising that the company has no reason to terminate his employment and that he will continue to work as a sales rep in the company.
Emails to the Company
Margaret recalled that her late Father advised that they send a mail to the company which she adhered to.
She added that Late Kolawole also kept communication with a staff of the head office “particularly, one Mr Uyi, one of their HR or Admin officer. He talked with Mr Uyi, and I have the [record of his] conversation with Mr Uyi”.
Company Claims Unawareness
Margaret said her late Father was later informed that the head office is not aware of his health condition and he should come to make an official report.
“In February, he went to the place with one of my brothers and a witness. He went with his crutches, Xray result, everything we had done with a lot of receipts, I.D card and his appointment letter”.
Margaret added that they photocopied his documents and promised to get back to him.
“Since then I’ve been following up. I wrote a letter to them”, She said.
Margaret explained to HSENations that when she started sending emails, the company asked the family to submit some documents to process the insurance.
“I have five or six emails I sent to them. The first one they responded they said I should go and get a medical report, police report and all the bills for them to claim from the insurance”, she said.
She alleged that Mr Uyi even advised her father to find a way to convince the police to give him a report after he told him he was not able to report on the accident day.
Letter of Termination and #17, 210 Cheque Couriered, and Rejected.
Sequel to their visit to the head office, Margaret revealed that her father was shocked with a letter of termination and a cheque of #17,210 from Papilon Plastics Company.
According to Margaret, a courier man was directed from Mr Kola’s residential home to his location at OOUTH, Sagamu on the 10th of March 2020.
Margaret added that upon seeing a termination letter, her late Father refused to sign the letter.
Margaret noted that the cheque and the letter were backdated.
The Pain & Seeking Justice
After the couriered letter and cheque saga, Margaret said the family continued to wait on the insurance claim promise.
She recalled that her father’s health took a different turn and doctors recommended surgery. The surgery was to be conducted in March but was deferred due to the lockdown till 19th June 2020.
After been handed #144,000 budgets for the surgery, Margaret said she sent another emergency email that was not responded to.
Mr Kolawole finally died on the supposed surgery day.
Margaret said after she broke the news of Mr Kolawole’s death in the Company’s WhatsApp group, condolence messages poured in, and “the next call I received was from Mr Uyi, the HR Person, that they are going to need the death certificate for the insurance claim”.
Handing over to OHSEC Legal Aid Clinic
Margaret said their family felt cheated and decided to hand over to a legal body.
OHSEC Legal Aid Clinic’s Position on the Matter
Meanwhile, Bunmi Jasmine Omeke, Legal Coordinator of OHSEC LEGAL AID CLINIC, the NGO helping Margaret and other Workplace victims get justice, likened Papilon Plastics Company’s insurance claim process as a kind of “fraud” in practice. She said the insurance process is inconsistent with the information they are passing to the family.
Bunmi noted that after sending the company a letter based on the overwhelming facts, “we received a letter reiterating their claim that his (late Festus) employment had been terminated and that they were just magnanimous enough to continue with the insurance”.
She furthered, “I’m wondering what system made that decision. I am wondering how they procure that kind of insurance”.
“You cannot be telling insurance that you are getting insurance for your injured worker who is still in your employment and be telling the family that his employment was terminated”.
“You can’t do that. You have to be consistent with the information you are giving out”.
Bunmi also alleged that the company’s Head of Corporate Affairs responded to Magaret in an email copying OHSEC Legal Aid Clinic that she should not engage a lawyer and had no right to engage a lawyer because she cannot “arm-twist” them.
“When I responded to her after I saw series of her email, I told her that she has no right to tell people not to engage lawyers, and as lawyers representing OHSEC, we will wait for 30 days for them to respond to our letter professionally”.
Bunmi also claimed she said, “They should know that the activities of OHSEC Legal Aid Clinic are independent of the suit in the courts because they as an NGO seeking social and legal justice will do both the media and the court.”
She said OHSEC Legal Aid is seeking to call the attention of the public to the maltreatment of their staff and get their question answered.
“Till he died in June, [Papilon Plastics Company] did not contribute to his medical bill,further stopped his only source of income and he was a bread winner so, what is it that [they] wanted? [They wanted] him to die so that [they] can get the death certificate for an unlawfully procured insurance? Or for their benefit?”
“Were [they] waiting for him to die to get insurance? If [they] claimed [they] terminated his employment, when did [they] terminate it? If you say [they] never heard about the accident, when did they hear about it? These are the questions we are asking. These are the fact that we have. And we have evidence in our case”, She concluded.
Papilon Company Responds
Meanwhile, Papilon Plastics Company has described Margaret’s allegations as a mere misrepresentation of facts.
HSENations reached out to Uyi Ogbebor, a Staff in the Human Resource department of Papilon Plastics who later handed over the phone to one of the company’s Directors.
The director, a woman who refused to give her name, refuted claims that the company abruptly dismissed Mr. Kolawole, asserting that the staffs were informed that the depot would be closed and that they would to be disengaged.
She alleged that the deceased Kolawole also approached the sales manager that he will like to be a distributor of the company’s product in Sagamu when he’s no longer in the employment of the company since the depot would close.
According to the Director, the company closed its Sagamu depot on the 31st of December 2019. Hence, many staff could not collect their cheque.
She said in, February, the Human Resource department realized that Late Kolawole had not come for his cheque which prompted her to reach out to him. She noted that it was during the course of the call that the company’s head office first discovered he had an accident in November and has been on the sick bed.
According to the Director, Uyi thereafter had a WhatsApp conversation with Kolawole to enquire as to why he did not formally inform the head office about his accident.
“After their conversation, I think a week or two after, in that February, Mr. Kola showed up here in the company’s head office with some people and they met the Human Resource Manager”.
“Even when the Human Resource Manager told them that he knew this place from the beginning, this was where he came to collect his letter, why didn’t he even send someone to come and report officially or even send a letter to say he had an accident”.
“We have a process. If any of our staff have an accident while in our employment, we have medical insurance and we take always take care of the medical bills”, she said.
“Human Resource Manager said well, you said you had an accident in November. In November you were still our staff. December was when the depot closed and people were laid off. No problem, bring the medical bills that you expended and we will inform our medical insurance and we can now see what the insurance can cover”.
The Director further said that the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 delayed the insurance process, however, “Document had been sent, as we speak, the man’s papers are with our insurance [brokers]. Our insurance brokers demanded papers and we sent and the daughter (of late Mr.Kola), know communication is being made”.
On the death requested certificate, the Director told HSENations that when she learnt about the demise of Mr. Kolawole, they went ahead to inform the insurance company who immediately demanded for his death certificate.
She said the company was however shocked when they received a letter from a lawyer and reached out to Margret to question the motive when she knew the insurance claim process was on.
“We gave the letter to our lawyer and our lawyer reported that the company does not owe them anything, the insurance has taken over and that is it”.
“The man left our employment on December 31st. His letter of termination was couriered to him when he said he was not available to come”.
“And the truth of the matter is that even in Law, you know you cannot impose a willing employee on an unwilling employer”.
“Even at that, the company did not say because he reported his accident late, that they were not going to say something.”
“This thing, according to him, happened in November , he was our staff in 2019. We never shifted from responsibility. The facts and figures are there, there is nothing to lie about”.
“Whatever the family is going about saying, we don’t even understand it, and we are not a party to it. Even our lawyer told them”.
She reiterated that “we never treated this man wrongly. There was no day that his salary was the not paid when he was in our employment up till 31st of December”.
“We don’t even know when the accident happened. He said he wrote on the sales team WhatsApp group. The sales team WhatsApp group is not an official means of communication. The sales team WhatsApp group, they can only say sorry”, she also stated.
“Even his supervisor when we questioned them… they said that he just wrote on WhatsApp. …They even sent him money to take care of himself in the hospital at that time”.
Speaking further, the Director said, “We are a respectable company. We are 41 years in Nigeria. We will not defraud any staff. There are staffs that have worked with us for 20 years. And they are still working with us. If we are a bad company, they will not stay”.
“Whatever they are saying, I want to state categorically that they are misrepresented fact to the media and the records should be set straight”.
Asked about the #17,210 cheque, she said, “It was for the days worked for in December”.
In the same vein, Eyitayo Ogunyemi, the Lawyer to Papilon Plastics Company told our correspondent that “If they (OSEC Legal Aid) feel strong about their claim, they [should] go to court. We don’t do media practice, it is not ideal”.