Tag Archives: law

Legally Representing Myself (Law DIY)

This is not me

This is not me

This morning I acted as my own legal representative for the first time. It was both intimidating and exciting.

Unable to afford official solicitors, I decided to try it myself. I made my own court bundle of evidence and made sure I read up onMan with Bound Book legal and case points beforehand.

I wrote on my previous post about my Employment Tribunal claim for non-payment of wages and constructive dismissal. I described how I worked for 5 weeks as an English language teacher without pay, despite being given a contract. The excuse was that I was going to be paid but there was trouble with the bank. It has been seven months and I have not seen a penny of it.

Today was the big day. I nervously deliberated about what to wear. I decided on a dark grey business dress with pin lawyer-786478stripes which stopped just before the knee and was slightly figure hugging, with opaque black tights. It did not have sleeves so I wore a simple black cardigan, as I knew from being a legal secretary that sleeveless clothing was frowned on in legal proceedings.

I attempted to print off extra documents with my expensive white elephant of a printer (it only works when it feels like it) and spent extra time preening. Thankfully two of my former colleagues, Marilyn and Karen, who had also not been paid, agreed to meet me there and were both allowed in the Hearing room.

We went into a concealed small entrance into what looked like unassuming offices. A receptionist told us to go up to the Claimant’s area and we were met by a kindly, reassuring usher, who was sympathetic and a good listener. She told us how the building used to be a children’s school and still had a playground on the roof. There was another Claimant in there, a middle aged bespectacled man, red-faced and perspiring profusely. He looked in horror at my chronological, alphabetically ordered court bundle, no doubt wondering whether my overkill was common practice. We were told we may have to wait an hour, as he had been called in first. However soon after she told us this, another Judge magically appeared and within a mere half an hour I was ushered in.

I helped myself to a glass of water with trembling hands and waited for the Judge to arrive. A few minutes later he Employment_Tribunalentered. He was a tall, middle aged, slightly balding man with glasses and an intellectual, laid-back air. He instantly dismissed all formalities with a wave of his hand and said there was no need to go to the Witness Box, as no Respondent had arrived. He explained that this was considered admission of guilt in itself, as by non-attendance the Respondent had suggested that there was nothing to defend. It was a Remedy hearing, so he had already considered my evidence and made a decision in my absence.

“this is a sad situation which I see time and time again”

He told me that I was entitled to gross compensation rather than net compensation for my Schedule of Loss. This is a document showing how much the company owed me for work, holiday and notice pay, and how much I had comparatively lost in wages since my alternative employment. Jobseekers Allowance was not added on to the claim. The Benefits Office would issue a claim to the Respondent for public money owed as a result of my resignation following non-payment. I was not entitled to statutory pay as I had not worked there for two years. I reminded him that I was claiming under the exception of asserting a statutory right. He got rather irritated, shifted about in his chair and said “I am aware of that”. I quickly apologised and accepted his explanation.

We moved swiftly on and it emerged that the Judge agreed with everything I had claimed for. He told me a Judgement ordering the pay of almost £6 000 was in order. However, he said that I could not enforce any Order he made in the Employment Tribunal. I would have to transfer it into the County Court for that, but he believed that was free. He suggested he had previously worked in the legal field before becoming a Magistrate, which was reassuring.

I pointed out that my former colleagues were victims too, at which point he remarked on our “sad situation” and said it was something he saw “time and time again” with “a steady stream” of cases coming through “all the time”.

“this new change is a rogue’s judgement and will side with employers”

He also warned that it was “highly unlikely” the Respondent would pay as a result of the Order and that I would money_972_19521169_0_0_7049696_300probably need to pay to get it enforced. However I have heard that all my former employees have been dismissed and she has just established a third business with a different name.

“there will no longer be any justice for the common man or woman”

We then had a discussion about the injustice of legal fees coming in to the system from the end of July. Again, he completely agreed with me. He stated that although he was supposed to be politically impartial, he had to say that the new change to the system was a “rogue’s judgement, as you would expect under the Conservatives”, incriminating employees when employers are just as often at fault as those they hire. He agreed that there would be far less cases being pursued like mine, resulting in more scam employers getting away with it.

He said “there will no longer be any justice for the common man or woman like you and me”. He told me that a case like mine would cost in the region of £1 300, and that even if I just pursued the most simple claim it would still be £350.

We left and as I walked down the steps of the humble old building I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. It was finally over. Or was it?

We had a coffee in some public gardens with a large fountain. We watched two men barbecuing chicken legs until they were ticked off by one park warden, then his colleague. After a while a “bobby on a bike” turned up and then they finally agreed to leave. They strolled off with baggy pants falling down as soon as the policeman began to talk into his radio.

The sun was out and I felt so content until I felt the sun burning my shoulders. We went for lunch in a cafe and talked more about our experiences. Marilyn, as the unofficial detective of our group of former (unpaid) employees had found out all sorts of information about our former Director.

Emboldened by my first legal representation, I decided we should march down to the Police station right then and police-helmetthere and update them on their ongoing investigation. The detective was absolutely excellent. She came out to meet us and attempted to take us into an interview room, but there were none free. I updated her on Proceedings and she was most surprised that I would not be able to enforce anything. After all, what is the point of an Order that the miscreant will just ignore?

After a progress update we felt reassured. Marilyn and Karen were grateful to meet her, as they had been interviewed by some of her colleagues previously.

I walked out into the sunshine with them feeling rather proud. Things were making progress, I had been awarded more than I claimed for, a Judgement would be sent in the post and the Police enquiry was picking up pace.

Maybe I should train to be a lawyer…

4 Comments

Filed under Life of Lydia

The Groping Scandal

Lord Rennard is accused of the sexual harassment of up to a dozen women

Lord Rennard is accused of the sexual harassment of up to a dozen women

Nick Clegg MP recently gave an accurate description of what journalists are – self-appointed detectives. They dig up the facts and then report them, exposing things liars, cheats and wrongdoers would rather keep hidden.

The media are the third estate – sometimes called on when power-abusers cannot be dealt with by the police or the law. They may be able to escape the legal system but they cannot risk their reputation. Parliament had failed to act on groping claims directed at Lord Rennard. He was a Lord “holding the purse strings for any winnable seat [in Parliament]” and abusing his power, behaving as he wished with no consequence. Women had apparently gone through official channels and been let down. His friend Lord Stoneham is now accused of harassing the lady who went to the press.

Lord Rennard's chum, Lord Stoneham

Lord Rennard’s chum, Lord Stoneham

The fact is that Lord Stoneham was responsible for his friend’s conduct and one would hope that he addressed it with him. It is alleged that he promised a victim he would. A groping offence is no laughing matter, I have suffered this walking out of a bar and I felt shocked and disgusted. It was a complete stranger. My manager once said “we could have sex right now and no-one would know” when the office was empty. I often spoke about my boyfriend to remind him that I was not interested. A previous colleague had alleged sexual harassment and it had been brushed off as “banter”. This it is certainly not. It is inappropriate, ignorant and disrespectful.

It’s time the offence stopped being viewed as something comical that women “bring on themselves” or worse, that they “should be flattered” or even “enjoy” it. Women in the scandal were dismissed as “red hot babes” “silly girls” and “hormonal women”. If a woman says no or becomes uncomfortable men should know when to stop. Lets shift the focus away from the victims and onto the perpetrators.

Another problem this story highlights is the issue of management accountability. I was once in a company where bullying of a colleague was addressed in the internal post, as the accused was friends with her manager. Prior to this, when it happened to me, I went through official channels with the perpetrator’s manager. I was hauled into her office for a good dressing down from both of them. The frustration colleagues felt was epitomised in this picture which they laughed about. >>>>>image0011

How can a situation be addressed when the person responsible for the accused’s conduct is their peer? Surely they would side with them, as seems to be the case in this scandal, with the result that the problem was not dealt with. This leads to whistle-blowing. Victims are then hounded. We need to have management systems whereby whistle-blowing is not necessary, where someone can address an issue with someone more senior – a “my door is open” approach.

When there is no redress for disgruntled workers this may result in a negative working environment. Productivity may decrease as a result. I was in a company that was the most successful branch in the country. They had a culture of communication – the managers would talk to you on the same level, would hold meetings with you and would listen. They would work with colleagues, not above them. We were inspired by their success.

As for sexual harassment, I expect to encounter this again as it is so endemic. I will not hesitate to point out that I am not OK with it and find it inappropriate, and I hope readers will. If it is not addressed it will only continue.

Lets make management more approachable and accountable and lets stamp out sexual harassment, not only in the workplace but elsewhere.

The-SlutWalk-demonstratio-007

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Power of Networking

Since I threw the stone advertising unemployment into the Facebook lake, there have been quite a few ripples, as old school friends got in touch saying they knew about something or could ask for me.  As the Japenese saying goes, a rolling stone gathers moss.

These positions were available through agencies that were not based in the city where the job was. So there would have been no chance of me knowing about them otherwise. In these intensely competitive times, it’s not what you know but who you know. It’s a case of contacts – from a course you attended, college or university.

At first I was too ashamed to broadcast my job seeking status. I thought it seemed like failure when many of my graduate friends were in nice impressive jobs. I’m rather envious of a guy from my year who is now a broker at Christies, constantly posting pictures of his champagne lifestyle. By their mid-20s it seems most graduates have found decent/steady employment.

I told one friend that no, I was not above doing warehouse packing – any job to release me from the state’s shackles.

Speaking of which, I waited 45 minutes for my Jobcentre appointment to make a new claim. Security staff hovered about occasionally as I sat there, steam coming out of my nostrils. I had paid 20p extra on a quicker bus and I had run to ensure I could not be sanctioned for being late. The worst thing about being unemployed is being at the beck and call of the all-powerful Jobcentre who control everything from what you have to do next on the endless run of job skills workshops, to whether you get to eat or not.

I had a job to apply for and I had to send in details before 5. This didn’t happen. I was expecting a call back about a legal matter (more on that story when it gets to court). This did not happen as I can only be contacted on my home telephone – my mobile is broken and I cannot afford a replacement. The charger on my old replacement mobile has broken so I need to buy another. There are always things to be bought.

I sat next to a guy who was being text by an angry girlfriend, unhappy about his financial situation, or maybe about his personal hygiene, judging by his overpowering natural cologne. He had been in the Jobcentre for two hours and he waited an extra 30 minutes to be seen, such was the backlog. His friend next to him had just got a delivery driver job. He had his tracksuit on, hood up and was bouncing about with suppressed joy. A girl on the other side of the room with bright red hair was sitting with her nose aloft, reading a novel the size of War and Peace, wearing a tracksuit but with walking boots instead of trainers. We almost quick marched out of the place and into each other.

I understood this display, having read The Week in an effort to show that I most certainly did not belong here thank you very much. I also didn’t like the way we seemed to be called “customers”. I wasn’t buying anything, I just needed temporary financial aid. The sooner I could escape from this two week cycle of despair the better.

Finally I was seen by a lovely girl who apologised for the delay and continuously apologised for Jobcentre policies. I had apparently been penalised because I hadn’t been in to sign on. Why? Because they’d referred me to a “Finding and Getting a Job” course and I was on that. When I pointed this out she tentatively said that had I contacted them to inform them of this within 5 days my benefits would have continued. When I asked why I wasn’t contacted for 27 days she apologised again for the policy.

I once again provided every payslip for my Saturday job, but still have to fill in a form telling them what they say. I have applied to get the money back for the past 26 days, but this depends on a God-like decision-maker, sitting in some cushy office upstairs with that all-important rubber stamp. (Update – I never got my money back).

But I won’t be messed around for long – things are looking up…

1 Comment

Filed under Jobhunting