As an employee, it can feel like your employer holds all the cards. Your employer might appear to have more resources than you have — HR professionals, lawyers and others they can afford. Fortunately, Australian law requires employers to protect their employees from harm and to treat their employees with respect. Those requirements apply no matter how big, how influential or how well-resourced the employer might be.
Employers who fall short of their legal requirements face consequences. Applying those consequences is the role of Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission. Demanding a Fair Work Commission hearing is the right of any employee who feels their employer has fallen short of its legal obligations.
Like a court, the commission hears from both sides in a dispute then makes a decision. Should the commission decide in your favour, it will usually award compensation.
Employers often agree to pay compensation before a dispute goes all the way to a Fair Work Commission hearing. At a hearing, your employer risks having to pay compensation and the costs of an expensive process — a process that might cost you nothing (see below for details).
For an employer, a fast agreement to pay out before a hearing minimises the risks of extra expense.
You’re in a dispute with your employer when they don’t believe you’re the victim of unfair dismissal, sexual harassment or another breach of employment law. Because you’re in a dispute, it’s smart to consult lawyers who specialise in disputes and litigation. Disputes and litigation specialists are the lawyers who present cases every day to courts and tribunals, like the Fair Work Commission.
Importantly, engaging a lawyer who knows how to fight for a client in court doesn’t mean you will have to go to the Fair Work Commission. Lawyers who fight cases in courts and tribunals know how to present your employer with a thought-provoking preview of what the employer will face at a hearing. Understanding what they will be up against is the best way to persuade your employer to settle with you before the case is heard.
Employers have numerous responsibilities under Australian employment law. However, the most common reasons for employees to seek compensation from employers are:
1. Unfair dismissal
2. Sexual harassment
The law defines sexual harassment and unfair dismissal, but it’s best to get the opinion of a lawyer before deciding whether those definitions fit you. Many people, for example, don’t appreciate how broadly sexual harassment law applies. Sexual harassment goes further than being the victim of unwanted sexual advances. Not long ago, a cleaner at a Gold Coast school was awarded $156,000 compensation after a prank. The prank made the cleaner uncomfortable and a tribunal agreed that the sexual content of the prank made it sexual harassment.
As an employee with rights enshrined in law, you are not on your own. Your employers can’t do whatever they want, and you have specialist lawyers at the end of the phone ready to advise you. If your employer has fallen short of the standards expected in Australia, you have nothing to lose by contacting us to talk about your options and to protect your legal position.
We can act for you wherever you are in Queensland because most employment disputes are negotiated remotely, and Fair Work Commission hearings do not have to be in-person either. Call us to discuss your next steps in putting things right.