Taking the decision to sue your employer is not something you will come to lightly, but sometimes it is necessary. It can be a complex situation to pursue legal action against your employer, and of course it can be costly and emotionally draining also, so you need to fully understand what your chances of success are and what the outcomes are likely to be in terms of compensation. This will help you weigh up the decision and whether you would like to proceed with the action.
On what grounds can I sue my employer?
Of course, you can’t just sue your employer whenever you are unhappy at work, so you need to understand when it is appropriate. There are five main reasons why an employee would take legal action against their employer:
- Discrimination: this can take many forms, usually involving race, gender, sex, ethnicity, religion or disability. You may also find yourself being treated unfairly after making a complaint or achieving something that a colleague takes umbrage to. These are different forms of discrimination.
- Harassment: sexual harassment in the workplace is quite common, but there may also be grounds to sue for physical or psychological harassment if it is related to race, gender, sex, ethnicity, religion or disability, i.e. forms of bullying, if your employer is either the direct source of it or has knowingly done nothing to deal with harassment of you from a co-worker or supervisor.
- Unfair dismissal: If you are dismissed and the correct process was not followed, or the reason for dismissal was not one of the fair reasons or dismissal was an too harsh a sanction, then potentially there could be grounds for legal action, although this is sometimes difficult to prove. This could be a form of discrimination or a form of retaliation from your employer.
- Constructive unfair dismissal: If your employers conduct is so bad that you cannot work there anymore than you may be entitled to sue. It is a very hard claim to make, as the conduct needs to be bad enough to constitute a breach of your employment contract.
- Workplace injury: this is a very common form of legal action and can happen in any work environment, not simply in dangerous jobs. Modern health and safety regulations mean it can be quite straightforward to follow a procedural trail and establish whether your employer has been negligent in you being injured or not.
Advice on suing your employer
There are five main stages to follow in terms of actions and advice you should consider on your way to deciding whether legal action against your employer is the right way to go.
1.Legal advice: you should establish the strength of your case through a qualified and trusted solicitor before you say anything to your employer. This should be achievable through a free consultation and a basic examining of facts and evidence.
2.Talk to your employer: it is likely that your employer will not want you to pursue legal action, so you should always attempt to resolve the matter amicably. Legal action can attract public attention, unnecessary costs, wasted resources and can also fracture remaining working relationships, so an employer may wish to reach an amicable compromise. Therefore, once you have talked to a solicitor you should attempt to set up a meeting with your employer.
3.Document evidence: as soon as you start to think about suing your employer you should start to collect evidence. This will be needed by your solicitor from the outset and is a big factor in whether or not you should proceed. Evidence can be in the form of emails, photos or messages. You should also take notes on the timeline of the incident and keep this detailed and up-to-date throughout the process.
4.Talk to other employees: every organisation is different so only you can judge who you can trust and who you should talk with, but it is possible that other employees have had similar experiences to yours, and which can therefore help to support your case. They may also have been witness to events which can support your case.
5.Go ahead? Once the above factors have been considered, you should have enough information with which to make a firm decision on whether to pursue legal action or not.
Successfully suing an employer
There have been cases of an employee successfully suing their employer, with one of the most recent being Charlotte Loubser, a hairdressers’ receptionist. Charlotte fell sick in the early stages of her second pregnancy, after having experienced a similar illness during her first pregnancy. Charlotte was signed off work by her Doctor, but she wanted to return to work after successfully passing her 12th week of pregnancy. However, before returning to work she was dismissed by the salon.
Charlotte successfully sued her employer for £2,000 in lost wages and £15,000 in compensation. Cases such as this highlight why people should not be overawed or put under pressure, and should pursue legal action if there are sufficient grounds to justify it. An employer has contractual commitments to you as an employee, and when those are broken, it is your right to pursue action to seek a suitable compensatory reward.
For more information, please contact our employment team on 0113 284 5000 or contact us here.