Tribunal doubles costs award against “unreasonable” CIty firm staffer

Hogan Lovells: Ex-employee’s claim was hopeless

A former employee of City giant Hogan Lovells tried to cause “maximum disruption” to the law firm in bringing employment tribunal proceedings, “perhaps as some form of revenge for his dismissal”, a judge has ruled.

Judge Kelly doubled the costs awarded to Hogan Lovells to £8,000 after rejecting Igor Donskoi’s application for him to reconsider his decision last April to strike out his claim for unfair dismissal, which was said to arise from making a protected disclosure.

Judge Kelly made an initial costs order of £4,000 in April because of attacks Mr Donskoi made on the City firm’s integrity, 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.

In his ruling on Mr Donskoi’s reconsideration application, the judge said Mr Donskoi’s approach was designed to cause “maximum disruption” to the law firm, “perhaps in the hope of securing a settlement outside of these proceedings, or perhaps as some form of revenge for his dismissal”.

“Either way, I am more than satisfied that his approach has been and continues to be unreasonable in these proceedings.”

In his reconsideration request, Mr Donskoi – a native Russian speaker – argued that it was “necessary, in the interests of justice”, as he was “disadvantaged because he did not have the benefit of a translator”.

Judge Kelly said he was satisfied at the time, and remained satisfied that Mr Donskoi fully understood both hearings.

In the light of Mr Donskoi’s arguments, he decided a translator should be present at the October hearing, but at the outset Mr Donskoi was “content to address me and liaise in English, despite having an interpreter present”.

Having advised him to use the interpreter, “for the most part”, Mr Donskoi did this, but “on occasion the claimant proceeded to answers questions from me in English without awaiting the translation”.

Judge Kelly said he noted “with interest” the CV sent to Hogan Lovells by Mr Donskoi when applying for his role.

This described him as “fluent” in English, stated that he had worked for 13 employers in the UK, including defending cases as a locum lawyer, and had an LLM in maritime law at Southampton University.

The judge said such a person was unlikely to struggle “in any way with the language used at the hearings”.

Judge Kelly said he had formed the view that the claimant raising language issues was “nothing more than an unmeritorious attempt to try and find fault with the procedure from the first hearing in the hope that the decision will be reversed”.

Mr Donskoi also argued a costs order should not have been imposed on him on the basis of his email “attacks” on a solicitor representing Hogan Lovells because these were “personal attacks and not in the course of these proceedings”.

Rejecting this argument, the judge said they were “made after the commencement of, and during the course of, these proceedings”.

Mr Donskoi had also called into question the impartiality of the tribunal “without any proper basis for doing so”.

Judge Kelly ordered that Mr Donskoi pay a further £4,000 in costs – including £2,500 in counsel’s fees – for the reconsideration hearing given that his approach continued to be unreasonable.

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