If you’ve been sexually harassed at work then you might be thinking about making a claim for sexual harassment in the Employment Tribunal. There’s 2 ways you can do this. You can either:

  1. Submit and handle your claim yourself
  2. Instruct a solicitor to handle your case for you

There are benefits and disbenefits to either of the above. However, this post isn’t intended to discuss the merits of lay representatives (Claimants-in-person) and employment law solicitors. Instead, it’s intended to suggest how people thinking of making a claim for sexual harassment can evaluate how strong their claim is – and therefore whether they’ll want to take their matter to the Employment Tribunal or not. We’ll do so by analysing a few things:

  1. How much time do you have on your hands?
  2. How strongly do you feel about taking the case to the Employment Tribunal?
  3. How much documentary evidence do you have of the sexual harassment?
  4. How much witness evidence do you have of the sexual harassment?
  5. Do you have access to any resources to help you run your claim successfully?

How much time do you have on your hands?

Although this may seem like a trivial issue it will have a huge impact upon the potential success of your claim – what you get out of your Employment Tribunal will depend (to a great extent) on how much you’re prepared to put in if you’re running it yourself. If you’ve recently left your job or are on a leave of absence for any particular reason then you may feel like you have the necessary time to run the claim yourself.

How strongly do you feel about taking the case to the Employment Tribunal?

This is a very important consideration. If you don’t think that you will have the patience to take it all the way or think that it would be too much stress then there are a couple of routes open to you (besides, that is, appointing a solicitor to deal with it). One of these routes is to enter into negotiation with your employer regarding the possibility of a compromise agreement. You can use this to negotiate compensation for your claims without actually going through the Employment Tribunal procedure. However, you will need to obtain advice from a relevant independent legal adviser (such as an employment law solicitor) to create a valid compromise agreement.

How much documentary evidence do you have of the sexual harassment?

So, to the actual strength of the case itself. In order to succeed in your sexual harassment claim you must provide evidence to show the Employment Tribunal (on the balance of probabilities i.e. more probable than not) that what you’re claiming happened actually did happen. You’ll use two types of evidence to show this: documentary evidence and witness evidence. We’ll address documentary evidence here and witness evidence below.

Documentary evidence is pretty much anything that can be recorded – emails, voicemails, transcripts of meetings, audio recordings of conversations, letters, diaries – even databases. What you’ll want to do first of all is gather any and all evidence that you think that you may have and create a list of what you’ve got. If you think it’s relevant then put it in your list. After you’ve done this examine what you’ve got – does the evidence you have demonstrate that certain events occurred or that particularly relevant things were said? If so, then you’re on the right track to succeeding with your claim.

How much witness evidence do you have of the sexual harassment?

The second type of evidence that you’ll want to use is “witness evidence”. This is evidence given by people who witnessed particular facts which are relevant to your matter. For example, in a sexual harassment case one of your co-workers might have seen the particular acts complained of (the sexual harassment) take place. If so, you’ll want to get evidence from that co-worker to strengthen your case. However, this isn’t always easy – if your colleagues are still employed by the business you work for they may be reluctant to give evidence in case it impacts negatively on their career. Equally, there are certain ways to compel  such people to attend an Employment Tribunal hearing to give evidence. We won’t deal with that here but we’ll address it in a future post.

Do you have access to any resources to help you run your claim successfully?

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing a claim rests upon the resources that you can utilise (apart from, that is, your own labour). Such resources can include:

  • Friends who work in Human Resources or, ideally, employment law
  • Books
  • Law Centres, Citizen Advice Bureaus or other such charities

Friends who work in Human Resources or, ideally, employment law

If you have such friends then it can be unbelievably useful. Try and “pump them” for information on what certain things mean, how to run your claim and how to prepare for your Employment Tribunal hearing.

Books

We recommend getting a couple of books from the library or from Amazon, including:

  • Tamara Lewis’ “Employment law – an adviser’s handbook”
  • Cunningham & Reed’s “Employment Tribunal claims”

If you can get hold of one or both of these books it will make things so much easier for you. Try to get the latest editions as the law does change quite rapidly in the field of employment law.

Law Centres, Citizen Advice Bureaus or other such charities

These can be incredibly useful for cost-effective advice. Try and get along to your local law centre or CAB to see if they can help you. They may not have a specialist employment lawyer “on site” but the odds are they can refer you to someone who can help you.

Direct 2 Lawyers offer employment law advice to employers and employment law advice to employees. They use specialist employment lawyers who can offer you Employment Tribunal representation in your sexual harassment claim.

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The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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