I have been involved in two discrimination cases which have been finalised in the last few weeks. The outcomes of the cases, coincidentally, are similar and have culminated in compensation for both employees.
The first one involved a case of sexual harassment in the workplace and resulted in a compensation payment, tax free, of €30,000. You can read more about that case, including the full decision of the WRC, here.
The other case, one you will not read about because it has been settled before ever going to the Workplace Relations Commission, has been settled for a similar sum of money. It was a discrimination case, not sexual harassment, as defined by the Employment Equality Act 1998.
The amount of work involved for me in both cases differed wildly, however.
The sexual harassment case involved a great deal of time and work and involved three days at the WRC: the first day was for mediation, the second day for the hearing, and the third day was to complete the hearing. Evidence had to be taken from two witnesses, cross examination of at least three witnesses, and booklets and submissions had to be prepared and submitted.
The second case, by contrast, only involved the submission of the complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission; shortly after this the solicitor for the employer made contact and the case was settled.
Responding to claims-professional or amateur?
I categorise responding to employment claims in two ways: professional or amateur.
When you bring any legal case or employment claim it is impossible to know how the other side will react.
One response is a pragmatic approach and a realistic attempt to settle the case by the party who is in the weaker position and is at risk if the case goes to a full hearing.
The risk, if you are the employer, involves an award of compensation against you, legal costs of representation, time taken to prepare for the case, and reputational damage.
The other response is to substitute cool analysis of the facts and the law with an emotional response to ‘fight the case’ to the end. This does not make much sense, quite frankly, but it is an easy reaction to embrace.
And if you have the money and are fully aware of the risks and costs, knock yourself out, if you want to. But the ‘professional’ approach, using logic and evidence rather than emotions, might serve you better in the long run.
Now, the professional response may be to fight the case in all circumstances, in order to discourage claims against you generally or copycat claims. But you should make this decision rationally after assessing all the relevant factors rather than responding emotionally.
The employee, too, must weigh up the chance of success versus the associated costs of representation, the probability of winning, and the potential remedies that can be gained. (This blog post, How to Make a Decision to Bring an Employment Claim to WRC or Not, might be worth a read.)