A former employee of Hogan Lovells whose unfair dismissal claim was thrown out has been ordered to pay costs because of attacks he made on the City firm’s integrity.
Costs orders are not the norm in employment tribunals but Judge Kelly in Birmingham said he was also sanctioning the claimant, Mr Donskoi, for pursuing a “hopeless” claim and bombarding the tribunal with unnecessary material.
The judge did not explain the background beyond saying that Hogan Lovells engaged Mr Donskoi “to provide services relating to a significant legal matters” it was working on.
The claimant’s unfair dismissal claim was dismissed by Employment Judge Broughton in July 2021 because Mr Donskoi did not have the requisite two years of employment.
But Judge Kelly said the claimant was “not so clear” about what had happened and so he struck out the claim to the extent it had not already been dismissed.
Mr Donskoi also claimed for automatic unfair dismissal by reason of a protected disclosure, for which a qualifying period of two years was not required.
But the judge struck this out too as the disclosure was made more than two months after the dismissal, meaning it could not have been the cause.
Hogan Lovells sought costs of £20,000 because of the claimant’s unreasonable behaviour, pointing out that Judge Broughton had told Mr Donskoi that it was “inappropriate” for him to make serious allegations of impropriety against solicitors without a clear and proper basis for doing so.
Judge Kelly said Mr Donskoi had nonetheless continued to make “numerous attacks” on a particular partner’s professional integrity, sending emails accusing him of being deceitful and greedy. He also referred to Hogan Lovells as “liars and scammers”.
He copied in “all of (or certainly a significant number of) partners” at the firm to his correspondence as well. “This is not an appropriate way for the claimant to have behaved,” the judge said.
Mr Donskoi had “some legal qualifications” from another country but Judge Kelly said he treated him as a litigant in person. But even then, he “must have appreciated” that the “voluminous” material he put before the tribunal was largely irrelevant and unnecessary.
“Ultimately, I am satisfied that the claimant has behaved unreasonably in nature of his communications with the respondent, the unnecessary amount of material put before the tribunal and of course, the pursuit of a hopeless claim which would have been apparent after the hearing with Employment Judge Broughton on 14 July 2021.”
He gave Mr Donskoi “the benefit of the doubt that he had a genuine claim to start with” but this “must have dissipated after the 14 July 2021 hearing”.
The judge limited the costs to those incurred after that date and, in the absence of a “useful breakdown” of what these were, awarded Hogan Lovells £4,000.