Are you an employee who is thinking about bringing a claim against your employer?
Or maybe you have already brought a claim?
I meet employees frequently and they may come to me before, during, or after a dispute with their employer.
And I see them making many mistakes.
These mistakes can range from bringing the wrong claim to suing the wrong entity as employer to missing the time limit to bring the claim that is misconceived or badly founded from the outset.
One mistake I frequently encounter, though, is the employee’s insistence that the employer will probably settle or roll over by reason of his fear of the ‘adverse publicity’ which the case is bound to generate.
This is a serious mistake because the employee places far too much importance on the threat of ‘bad publicity’.
It is an understandable mistake to make because the employee has a problem that has caused her great anxiety and stress and it has been a large part of her every day life for a considerable amount of time.
And now she is going to finally take action and remedy the wrong done to her.
But the wider world at large has their own individual, personal problems.
They may be big or small ranging from paying the mortgage to buying food or other daily essentials to avoiding the sack to dodging redundancy to the health and welfare of their loved ones to the kids getting on satisfactorily in school to getting good exam results.
And so on.
The list goes on and on. Some people would just call it ‘life’.
These problems may understandably detract from them noticing whether you were treated unlawfully in work or not, and how your claim goes at the WRC.
Quite frankly, other people have their own issues and may not have too much time for your case against your employer. It may not even register on their radar.
Or if it does it is soon forgotten. Tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper.
For this reason your employer may not have as much to fear on the publicity front as you would expect.
Workplace Relations Commission Claims are Private
Virtually all work related claims have to first be brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). However, the Workplace Relations Act at section 41 (13) states:
(13) Proceedings under this section before an adjudication officer shall be conducted otherwise than in public.
This means (virtually) all claims are held in private, not public.
Thus, the chances of a tremendous amount of bad publicity arising from the case are minimised.
And to make matters worse from a publicity perspective all decisions of the Workplace Relations Commission when published on their website are anonymised-that is, the identity of the parties is not disclosed and the decisions will have titles like ‘A Worker Versus a Retail Company’ or other nondescript, anonymous titles.
If you bring an employment related claim against your employer you need to weigh up carefully the pros and cons of your case, the potential outcomes, and the cost. These are the factors that you should place most emphasis on when arriving at a decision.
If you lose your case and you appeal to the Labour Court your case will be held ‘in public’ and there may be greater scope to wave the ‘adverse publicity’ stick as a weapon against your employer.
But in looking at your options in a WRC claim my advice is not to overegg the pudding in relation to idea that the employer will be fearful of the tremendous amount of bad publicity surrounding your case.
Because the reality is quite different, apart from some exceptional cases which hit the headlines for obvious reasons unique to that particular case.