How do we know what we’re talking about?
Well, last year alone we cost Employers all over Ireland over €1 million in payments to disgruntled employees.
Over the last eight years, we’ve pretty much seen it all, and we know every trick in the book. We’ve represented employees in the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Equality Tribunal, the Rights Commissioner Service, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the Labour Court. We’ve met judges, barristers (both senior and junior counsel), Tribunal chairs, rights commissioners, equality officers, adjudicators, winners, losers, the cook, the baker, the candlestick maker!
We’ve fought cases under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, Equality legislation, Data Protection Acts, for breach of contract and payment of wages. We’ve taken injunctions and prevented dismissals, negotiated settlements and compromises and achieved significant compensation awards costing employers a lot of money along the way.
One Client of ours was dismissed by his employer, a well-known hotel chain, for allegedly head-butting a work colleague at the staff Christmas party. We took on his case, although after viewing the CCTV footage provided to us under the Data Protection Acts we weren’t particularly confident. However, following three days of hearing in the EAT our Client was awarded €35,000 for unfair dismissal. From his employer’s perspective, they’ve been stung for €35,000 as well as three days of legal fees and the disruption to their business having their HR Director, General Manager, Head of Security and others at the hearing and away from their jobs for three days. Best of all for our Client though was how we made the HR Manager look pretty silly in cross-examination. She was ridiculed for not knowing or admitting to know the importance of a fair procedure in an employment context. She was humiliated.
To our Client that was pay-back to a degree for how low and small she made him feel when they decided not to listen to his explanation for what had actually happened. You see our Client hadn’t headbutted anyone. In fact, he’d been sober that night. But he wasn’t particularly liked at work and when there was a scuffle with another member of staff, management saw their chance. They could get rid of our Client who had been a thorn in their side. So, it didn’t matter what our Client said or did. No-one was going to listen to him, he’d headbutted someone and had to go…until we showed up.
Last year we represented employees in over 80 cases that went to hearing. We achieved awards of over €1 million, that’s in awards alone. One million euro! That’s not to mention the other costs of defending the case including of course legal fees and the intangible costs associated.
As I mentioned above though the tables are turning against claimants who are unrepresented or badly represented. It seems to me that the Government in introducing the new WRC process succumbed to the lobbying of big business and presumably part of that was to do with trying to make Ireland as attractive a destination as possible to foreign companies. The key to that often is to water down employment rights and make the employment market and in particular hiring and firing less off-putting for employers. And that is what the WRC has done in my view. So how is that you might ask? Well in my view the following is important in revealing how the system works against Claimants.
Hearings are conducted in the WRC in private. Now you might think that this is a good thing and certainly that’s the way it was sold by the Government at the time but in reality there is no logical explanation for this and in fact it could be argued to be unconstitutional. You see leaving aside the constitutionality of things (whether justice should be seen to be done) what employers hate more than anything is bad publicity. Any case in the EAT, the Equality Tribunal or the Courts was bad for business. A car maker doesn’t want to alienate half their customers by being accused of discriminating against women. Under the new system, that threat is now gone. The hearing are held in private and to compound this, the decisions are anonymised. What that means in reality is that even the worst offenders can take a chance at the early WRC adjudication stage and damn the consequences if they lose. We are seeing more and more of these cases running where previously they may have settled.
Secondly, while not a change per se, the fact that the WRC doesn’t award costs is certainly more advantageous to the Employer than the Claimant. You see the Employer probably has a lawyer on retainer and they are doing lots of other things for which that lawyer is probably getting well rewarded so its easy for the Employer to get his lawyer into the saddle for a WRC hearing. Not so much for you, a claimant who may not have had to use a lawyer at any time in the past, how do you choose one? who do you choose? who will properly represent you? Do they know what they are doing?
It should also be mentioned here that of course it’s generally cheaper for an employer to retain a solicitor than it is for you because of course the employer gets to claim their VAT back making it about 23% cheaper for them than for you.
Another thing we see frequently is that employers will invariably roll out the big guns in Dublin, magic circle type firms. We’ve dealt with them all Arthur Cox, William Fry, A&L Goodbody, Matheson and Mason Hayes & Curran in the last year alone. We have also dealt with the mid-tier boutique firms like Daniel Spring & Co., Beauchamps and Byrne Wallace. These firms are all excellent, but do they know any more about the WRC than we do?
Some people come into and tell us that they met a lawyer who balked at the prospect of going up against the big boys and that makes me wonder why? So who do you want on your team? some guy who has never set foot in the Labour Court? or an expert who is well known there and who is respected by the other side?
Unfortunately, litigation is expensive. We’re not saying we’ve got some silver bullet that’s going to make all of your problems go away, that there’s some magic dust that we’ll sprinkle and it’ll get the other side to pony up regardless of culpability.
Warning: if you do have an employment claim for unfair dismissals you must act fast and ensure that you adhere to the strict time limits laid down in the unfair dismissals act 1977 to 2005. You have six months to take your claim from the date of your dismissal.
To find out more please contact us on 1890 88 90 90 or email firstname.lastname@example.org