The architect of the National Cathedral, Sir David Adjaye together with his firm Adjaye Associates is currently facing a lawsuit at the Labour Division of the Accra High Court.
The plaintiff, an ex-director of the company, Alice Asafu-Adjaye who has no relation to David Adjaye wants a settlement of $61,903 (£50,000) for the ‘unfair termination’ of her contract in 2015.
A UK-based news portal, architects journal on January 17 reported that the witness statement filed in May 2021 to support the writ said Alice Asafu-Adjaye, also a senior architect was handpicked from London to serve as associate director of African projects for David Adjaye Associates in Ghana.
The report continued that the senior architect then relocated to Ghana with her young daughter in 2012.
The plaintiff in her statement of claim stated that three years later she was told the Adjaye Associates firm in Ghana was closing and was dismissed with no redundancy pay or offer of relocation costs back to the UK.
According to architects journal, Alice Asafu-Adjaye had studied and lived in the UK since the mid-80s.
The report noted that the claimant, an ex-Foster + Partners and former Bartlett student said she was given just four weeks’ notice rather than the required 11 weeks for senior staff which she said amounts to a breach of Ghana’s 2003 Labour Act.
According to her, David Adjaye and his company did not follow any redundancy procedures according to the 2003 Labour Act.
However, the architects journal said David Adjaye in his defence statement filed to the court denied all allegations by the Ex-director, Alice Asafu-Adjaye.
The defendants stated that the plaintiff’s employment was rather terminated ‘lawfully’ with respect to the terms of the contract she signed.
They argued that the plaintiff was entitled to only four weeks’ notice prior to termination of her contract which was obliged to.
The former director in her statement also alleged that contrary to the company’s claim of redundancy, the firm did not wind up, instead, it proceeded to bid for more contracts including the National Cathedral project through another newly incorporated company, Sir David Adjaye & Associates (SDAA).
She alleged that the company did this on purpose to avoid paying her redundancy. But Sir David Adjaye & Associates argued that SDAA is a separate company with ‘no bearing’ on the lawsuit.
The allegation further asserts that David Adjaye, who was named by King Charles to Britain’s esteemed Order of Merit in November, employed staff members in his Ghana office to work on personal projects without paying the business any money.
According to the claim, an architect from the UK spent the majority of his time working on Adjaye’s own property in eastern Ghana.
The statement of defence also disputes this assertion.
The plaintiff’s witness statement said David Adjaye recruited Asafu-Adjaye from Foster + Partners in the early 2000s and she considered him a “mentor and friend” at the time.
“It was an opportunity to be involved in growing a minority-owned business led by a talented Ghanaian and focused on projects I considered culturally important,” the UK’s architect journal quoted the witness’ statement.
Her statement of claim continued that she rose through the ranks and had so much ‘faith in the AAUK project’ that when the London office experienced financial difficulty in 2008, she agreed to forgo her salary for over a year to ensure other employees were paid.
She further alleged that this made her experience “extreme hardship” and left her relying on her credit cards and child support payments.
Asafu-Adjaye was allegedly selected to start the Ghana practice because she was the only senior staff member with prior experience operating in Africa and held dual citizenship with Ghana and the UK.
The UK’s architects journal further reported that under the plaintiff’s leadership as the second director and company secretary, the company won a number of high-profile projects, two of which was the Alara Concept Store creative hub in Nigeria and the International Finance Corporation headquarters in Senegal.
The report noted that Asafu-Adjaye was nonetheless informed in 2015 that the office was closing due to its “failure to generate adequate funds” and that all employee contracts would be terminated with one month’s notice.
For this reason, the plaintiff wants an amount of $61,903 as redundancy pay and compensation, costs and damages.
In addition, the UK-based architect is demanding a court order for Sir David Adjaye Associates to pay Ghanaian authorities around £3,000 in social security and national insurance (SSNIT) contributions she claims are owed on her wages.
The defendants refuted the assertion that Asafu-Adjaye was fired because the Ghana office would be shut down.
Additionally, it denied the allegations regarding SSNIT, claiming she had declined to sign up for the program.
According to the architects journal, David Adjaye’s attorney informed the court during the most recent hearing on December 20 that they had been told to settle with Asafu-Adjaye outside of court.
It said as of the time they published the story, no agreement has been reached.
The lawsuit will be heard in the upcoming court hearing on January 19 if a resolution cannot be reached, the Architects Journal reported.
Meanwhile, Adjaye Associates and Asafu-Adjaye declined to comment when contacted by Architects Journal .
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