In my work I meet a lot of employees on a weekly basis. And there are three mistakes that crop up time after time after time.
You need to know what these mistakes are, and ensure to avoid them. Are you ready?
If you bring a complaint to the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission) or institute legal proceedings in Court the decision maker is going to be concerned about
- The facts of your case
- The legal issues
- The application of the law to your case.
He will not be concerned about whether your employer had body odour or poor personal hygiene or recycled used envelopes or left toe cuttings on his desk or any other personal trait that drove you right around the bend.
In fact, even if your employer is losing his marbles at an alarming rate the decision maker-WRC adjudicator or Judge-will only be concerned about the issues and circumstances of your case and the law.
So don’t waste your energy on worrying about how tedious or annoying or reprehensible your employer is (or was). It’s a waste of time and energy and won’t help your case. Stick to your case:
- Prove the facts
- Prove how the law applied to your facts means you must win.
Remember, you are trying to prove that there have been breaches of your employment rights or entitlements or contract of employment or you have suffered a personal injury-whatever your cause of action is.
Nobody gives a damn whether your boss stank like an armpit, or was spiteful to stray dogs, or got hammered on a Sunday night with cheap cider and reeked of bargain basement aftershave on Monday morning.
2. It wasn’t perfect
Many employees relate to me how the employer failed in some aspect of an investigation or disciplinary procedure. They expect me to be shocked.
My reaction? “So what?” The question you need to ask: “is this fatal?”
Courts have found on many occasions when looking at the employer’s behaviour in a disciplinary procedure that it does not have to be perfect. An imperfection or infirmity in the carrying out of an investigation or procedure will not mean that the procedure is fatally flawed and you must, therefore, win your case.
Courts have recognised that different employers have different resources to devote to human relations issues. For example, compare the resources available to a leading bank in Ireland and those available to a small business making gates and light engineering products in the middle of nowhere with 3 employees and a dog.
Courts have found that perfection is not required, provided that the broad principles of natural justice are applied. So don’t rely on a small infirmity or flaw or small departure from a procedure in a staff handbook to prove your case for unfair dismissal.
This does not mean that employers can do what they like and the procedures in the workplace are not of vital importance. But building your case on the expectation of perfection from the employer every step of the way may lead to disappointment for you when the decision is handed down.
3. The bullying/stress allegation
Bullying in the workplace is reprehensible and inexcusable. But when it comes to bringing a claim for bullying or heading to the Courts to make a claim arising from bullying or workplace stress, the bar you have to clear to prove your case is a high one.
This was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court earlier this year in Ruffley v the Board of Management of St. Anne’s school.The Supreme Court said that the bar for such claims had necessarily to be set at a high level, for fear of an avalanche of claims arising from grievances in the workplace, as opposed to a recognised psychological or psychiatric injury to the employee.
I have had employees come into me to discuss bullying and stress in their workplace. However, when I dig deeper and unpack their concerns they complain about not getting a pay rise, disappointment in relation to promotion, promises made but not delivered, petty jealousies about other employees or managers, and other disappointments.
These things, although disappointing, do not amount to bullying which is defined as repeated inappropriate behaviour which undermines the victim’s dignity in the workplace.
If you are not happy in your job, or if you are thinking about bringing a claim against your employer, take a look at the three issues above and check that you are not making any of these mistakes.