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How to prepare for a case at the Labour Court

by , 22 October 2013
The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has lost its case at the Labour Court. Yesterday, Judge Andre van Niekerk ruled that the NYDA must reinstate its axed CEO Steven Ngubeni as the decision to fire him was in breach of his contract of employment. According to media reports, on 8 October, the NYDA board decided to fire Ngubeni after it found he was guilty of financial mismanagement and gross dereliction of duty. The NYDA has said it'll study the ruling and decide whether or not to appeal. If they decide to appeal, here's what they'll have to do to prepare for a case at the Labour Court.

According to the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service, if you feel aggrieved by an order made by the Labour Court, you may appeal at the Labour Appeal Court.

But preparation is vital in securing the verdict you want.

Preparing for a Labour Court case? Use this procedure to do it properly

#1: Start your preparation weeks in advance of the court date so you'll be ready in time.

#2: Work with your lawyer in:

  • Gathering all your documentary evidence and placing it in logical order
  • Preparing all your witnesses. (Note: This doesn't mean telling your witnesses what to say, that's illegal.) Instead, it means:
  1. Asking your witnesses in advance all of the questions you'll ask at the court hearing.
  2. Listening carefully to their answers. If the answers don't suit your case, don't use that witness.
  3. Alerting witnesses to the awkward questions they could be asked by the employee's lawyer. This avoids your witnesses being hit with unexpected questions at the hearing and losing credibility.

#3: Prepare to cross-examine the employee bringing the case against you. You need to do this so as to deny his allegations and show up the weaknesses in his arguments.

You'll have to do some of your preparation for cross-examining your employee during the court proceedings.

This means while your employee and each of his witnesses are testifying, take careful notes of the key statements made. After each of them has testified, request an adjournment to prepare your cross-examination, says the Loose Leaf Service.

#4: Prepare a final argument and include decisions in other cases to strengthen your argument.

#5: Make sure all your witnesses get to the court on time. This may even mean fetching them yourself and taking them to court. If you're not sure that a witness will attend court, you should consider subpoenaing him.

Don't take any matter to the Labour Court unless you have a strong case

A labour dispute could take several years to reach finality.

So make sure you do the following:

  • Budget for the cost and time needed.
  • Keep in touch with all witnesses– especially if they're employees who leave your company in the meantime.
  • Keep all your evidence in a secure place where it can't be interfered with.
  • Ensure all documents are typed on paper that won't fade with time. Certain types of waxy fax paper, for example, can cause the print to fade.

Well there you have it. If you ever find yourself in the NYDA's shoes, this is what you'll have to go through to prepare for your case at Labour Court.

Remember, the Court has the power to award costs in favour of the party who wins. This means the party who loses must pay (in addition to his own legal costs) the legal costs of the winner! So make sure you prepare thoroughly.

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