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By Gordon Turner solicitor, Partners Employment Lawyers

Anyone in the recruitment business needs to be aware of the alarming problem of serial litigants abusing the tribunals with fake discrimination claims based on unfortunate advertisements on websites. Being a serial litigant is very easy its a job in itself. In fact- its a job which could easily net you 50-60,000 per year, tax free I googled a couple of phrases this morning: Recent Graduate brought up 31,900 results and School Leaver a mere 719,000both phrases are the stock in trade for serial litigants who will then allege that the employer is unlawfully discriminating against older applicants.

If you are a fully paid up serial litigant, you probably dont work 9-5 (probably dont want to). Instead you spend an hour or so each day methodically working through your specialist phrases: those which might be discriminatory and then you lodge a number of claims online. The jobs dont need to be local because you can put on the Tribunal Form that you would prefer to be contacted by email so you could use any old address. You will however need an address (of sorts) because the employer will need one for the settlement cheque!

I came across this phenomenon when acting for a company in the graduate sector. The Claimants behaviour was very odd (I am used to this in the Tribunals). But this man was odd in a new way. There was something about his emails: the formulaic interplay between nonsensical legal references, threats to tell tales to the likes of Trevor Phillips followed by the Mr Nice Guy routine- your client doesnt need this (he didnt!)- why dont we call it a day for a couple of grand?

I asked this chap (email of courseno direct discussions) whether similar claims had been brought in the past to which he replied a couple but a check of the Bury St Edmonds Register of Decisions uncovered 17 cases had been disposed of. That was earlier this year as at October there appeared to be 50 or so! Given that 90% of cases tend to settle, you can do the mathematics on how many claims this man has lodged. I am well aware that this man continues unabated.

Since I uncovered this, my letters to Jack Straw, Minister of Justice and HHJ Latham, President of the Tribunals Service have been met with anodyne responses (basically, if you have a problem with a Claimant, apply for a strike out) but this clearly does not work the serial litigant wants you to use the legal process. It will cost a small fortune, making his carefully positioned 500-2000 settlement a bargain!

Strike out applications are very rarely successful unless you have the right information. The famous Blockbuster decision at Court of Appeal level makes it clear that most cases should go to a full hearing and if there is the slightest smidgen of doubt, an Employment Judge will refuse them. The problem then is that you have already clocked up a couple of thousand in legal fees and the Claimant will be thinking one nil to me! dragging the case on even longerand quite probably upping the settlement ante.

However, all is not lost. Since we have made it our business to tackle this problem, we have helped many employers achieve strike outs and withdrawals. The best evidence for these is simple, clear data: the number of previous claims brought, unsuccessful claims, strike outs and costs orders. Serial Litigants often dont even turn up at the hearing and so the Decision may record this. People contact us virtually every day to see if their claimant is a serial litigant sometimes we get requests from people who are considering employing a senior person (better to check these things out before you get too close!).

This allows us to check out the history we dont keep personal data (the ICO would have something to say about that), but we do collate information which is a matter of record such as Tribunal Decisions.

To read more about our service, including dos and donts you can visit our website. We are also holding 2 briefing sessions (10am and 6pm) on 26th November at Lincolns Inn, Chancery Lane, London. Damian and I will be giving information on how to avoid serial litigants altogether, managing them in the early stages and how to get the best out of the strike out rules. For information about our session, you can download the invite via this link:


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