“Rude and disruptive” caseworker must pay £20,000 costs to law firm

Tribunal: Appropriate to make costs order

A “rude and disruptive” caseworker who “embroiled” a national law firm in a “vast, unmeritorious” discrimination claim must pay £20,000 in costs, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Judge Maxwell in Watford said that, despite the volume of documentation, correspondence and hearings in the case of Manjeet Puar, dismissed after a three-month probation period, Duncan Lewis was “seeking less than half of the costs incurred”.

The judge dismissed Ms Puar’s claims of discrimination, harassment, victimisation and breach of contract in May last year, five and a half years after her dismissal in December 2016.

Had she passed her probation in the family and childcare team, she would have been offered a training contract.

Judge Maxwell said that while Ms Puar was “keen to grow and keep her claim alive, she sought to avoid a final hearing”, wanting to “keep the prospect of a large discrimination claim hanging over the respondent without allowing that to reach a conclusion”.

The judge went on: “She knew the respondent wished to push this forward and she sought to hold it back. This is, largely, the reason why we are adjudicating on a costs application circa seven years after the events complained about.

“The purpose of tribunal proceedings is to allow for a claim to brought and adjudicated upon, not to provide a forum for perpetual procedural wrangling.

“In her non-attendance at hearings, non-compliance with orders and late postponement applications, the claimant has been vexatious.”

The judge said Ms Puar had also made “serious allegations of impropriety and/or dishonesty” against law firm staff, “without evidence or logic” and the tribunal had concluded that she “sought to provoke them and exacerbate the situation”.

Judge Maxwell said there were two main reasons why Ms Puar’s claims had no reasonable prospects of success: there was no evidence to show that any of the treatment she complained of was because of race and she had “no answer whatsoever” for why “substantially the same concerns and accounts of her behaviour” emerged from others not accused of discrimination and/or sharing her protected characteristics.

There was “overwhelming evidence which tended to show a non-discriminatory reason for the matters she complained of (to such extent as these occurred) namely her own misconduct and poor performance”.

Judge Maxwell said that during the hearing in May last year, Ms Puar “was frequently, rude, disruptive or irrelevant” and he had to intervene repeatedly to remind her of the “ground rules”, despite the fact she was “exceedingly familiar with attending court hearings, including as an advocate, and must know what is expected”.

The case worker had “embroiled the respondent in a vast, unmeritorious claim over a number of years”, been “rude and disruptive” and acted both unreasonably and vexatiously.

“She was given proper opportunities to withdraw from this and failed to do so. We are satisfied it is appropriate and in the interests of justice to make an award of costs.”

Judge Maxwell described a costs calculation of over £40,000 made by Duncan Lewis as “possibly involving an underestimate”.

He said: “Given the volume of substantive documentation, party correspondence and hearings, the solicitor’s profit costs of circa £15,000 appear very modest.”

However, in the event the law firm capped its costs claim at £20,000, and by doing this “was, on any analysis, seeking less than half of the costs incurred”. The tribunal was “easily satisfied that £20,000 is a proper sum to award”.

The judge said Ms Puar failed to provide a statement of means, but there was no reason to conclude that she would not be able to pay the costs awarded.

    Readers Comments


    Justice was served

  • Charanjit Singh Tathgar says:

    It is right for cots order awarded against a vexatious unwarranted claim lasting such a long period. Others bringing in similar suits that drag on should also be made to pay.

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