05-12-2011

Campaign outside tribunal hearing can result in costs award

Carrying on a campaign about an Employment Tribunal dispute outside the court room – sometimes called a ‘campaign beyond the proceedings’ – can result in a costs award against the campaigner by the Tribunal, according to a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal decision.

An applicant for a legal job with OFWAT brought an Employment Tribunal claim after he was rejected.

OFWAT argued that he should have known he did not have the experience or qualifications (as a barrister) required for the job. He had also been made aware of the high calibre of other applicants. They therefore said his claim was misconceived, and the proceedings ‘vexatious’.

Also, during the claim, he started a campaign designed to discredit employment tribunals, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, where the claim ended up. As part of the campaign he wrote to his MP about his claim. This contained allegations of fraud among the judges, and a conspiracy involving the government. He produced no evidence for his allegations. He sent a copy of it by email to the open mailbox of the EAT. OFWAT said that this was unreasonable conduct in the appeal.

OFWAT therefore argued that he should contribute towards their legal costs.

The EAT agreed on both counts. It said his conduct had been disgraceful, even after he had been warned about it at an earlier stage and knew that it was wrong. Even though there had been no formal costs warning from OFWAT beforehand it had been obvious to the applicant that there was a risk of a costs order against him. The EAT therefore ordered him to pay costs of £750.

Recommendation

Employers, employees and job applicants involved in disputes should avoid conducting any sort of campaign outside the legal process unless they have taken specialist legal advice, or risk costs orders being made against them in the legal proceedings.