The wider impact of employment tribunal claims

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has recently handed down its Judgment on an application for anonymisation in the case of Piepenbrock v London School of Economics.

Dr Piepenbrock was assisted by his son in pursuing his claim, he was not legally represented. His claims were heard by the Employment Tribunal over the course of seven weeks earlier this year. The Tribunal rejected all of the claims and made a number of key factual findings against him. The Tribunal found that the Claimant was not a reliable or credible witness and that he “demonstrated behaviour which is manipulative and dishonest” and that his approach to individuals who he believes has wronged him is “frequently malicious and actively destructive”.

Some of the facts relevant to the claim arose approximately ten years ago and related to allegations raised by the Claimant against a junior female member of staff (known as “D”). The employment tribunal found unequivocally that the allegations were untrue and that the allegations were made maliciously. The Claimant had previously pursued a High Court claim which had been dismissed. Subsequently to that claim the Claimant had published extracts from the High Court judgment on a website seeking to cast D in a bad light, posting photographs of her and referring to her as a “stalker”. Further actions in the High Court against the University, D and other individuals followed in respect of which an anonymity order was made for D’s benefit.

In the hearing in question, the EAT was considering whether to maintain a similar anonymity order protecting D’s identity in respect of the Employment Tribunal proceedings. In written statements provided by D she outlined the impact upon which the previous ten years had on her and her family. The EAT accepted her evidence and confirmed that she should continue to be referred to in an anonymised form in order to protect her right to privacy under the Human Rights Act.Commentary

This case caught our attention as we have recent experience of similar conduct by litigants in person in a number of highly emotive claims where the stakes are much higher than covering short-term losses of earnings and the issues are complex.

Whilst a seven week listing remains very unusual for an employment claim, we can point to a number of cases we have worked on recently where unrepresented Claimants have issued complex claims across a number of different proceedings (and forums) where the amount of time spent in Tribunal runs into multiple weeks. Whilst it is possible in very limited cases to seek to recover costs in proceedings within the Employment Tribunal where claims are pursued vexatiously, abusively or unreasonably, employers generally have to absorb the cost of this litigation themselves, whatever the outcome.

Beyond the financial impact of such cases, there is also the reputational and human impact such cases have on individuals who are involved in the claims and the businesses and organisations they are seeking to run. Many such individuals are named in person or find themselves listed as co-respondents.

Our experience in responding to these types of claims allows us to develop strategies to not only achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients but also do so in a way that minimises the impact on them, their employees and their business or organisation. Our clients can continue to focus on matters outside of the litigation with the reassurance that their interests are being protected. For more information as to how we can help prevent you from facing claims or assist you in responding to claims you may face, please contact one of our employment law specialists.