How not to conduct an employment tribunal
Johal v Associated Transport Services Limited t/a Initial City Link & others, Employment Tribunal, 10 May 2006
BACKGROUND Mr Johal brought numerous claims against his employer, which were dealt with during a six-day hearing. Johal was represented by Mr Parker of Eurolawline, which provides representatives for tribunals. Although not a qualified solicitor or barrister, Parker held a law degree and a Master of Laws, and therefore, as the tribunal noted, had a degree of expertise and was not a lay representative.
Associated Transport Services contended that Johal had acted vexatiously and unreasonably in commencing and then continuing with the proceedings, and had lied and repeatedly changed his evidence during the proceedings. It sought a wasted costs order. Johal and Parker contended that Parker was not acting “in pursuit of profit” (as he was representing Johal for nothing on a pro bono basis) and that a wasted costs order could not, therefore, be made against Parker under the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure.
DECISION The tribunal concluded that the claims were misconceived and had been brought and conducted unreasonably. Johal’s behaviour “in telling flagrant untruths and maintaining them in the face of incontrovertible documentary evidence” led the tribunal to award full costs (in excess of £10,000) against him. As a large proportion of the costs had been wasted as a result of Parker’s misguided advice and unreasonable conduct, the tribunal held Parker jointly responsible for costs. The tribunal concluded that Parker was not acting “not for profit” and the costs order could be made against him as well as against Johal.
COMMENT Although it contains no new law, this tribunal decision illustrates how not to conduct tribunal proceedings. In this case, the claimant and his representative (who was an employment consultant holding LLB and LLM degrees) were held jointly and severally liable for the whole of the respondent’s costs. This was despite the fact that the claimant had a relatively modest income and no disposable capital, facts which in most cases would cause a tribunal to reduce any award of costs.