by Aida Morden PhD, Advocate
When my employment was terminated by Southwest Women’s Housing in 2009, three weeks into my job, I conducted a solitary protest but did not pursue my struggle. I never intended to. The protest was to show to them and to those who witnessed my protest that I did not agree with their action and that their decision was unfair. I was one year from finishing my Doctorate program and was under pressure to commit to a full time study. The termination was timely. It was also fortunate that my solitary protest invited anonymous, genuine and generous supporters.
On reflection, if given another chance, I will choose to continue my fight against what I claim to be an unfair dismissal. Not only for my own benefit but more so for the benefit of the others who will experience and face similar unfair treatment. I would have contributed to the exposure and debate regarding fair employment practises and law and send a clear message to the employers the consequence of unfair treatment. At that time, I felt alone and the law and legal processes I thought, were against me. If I persisted, I would have discovered that employees who are terminated during their probationary period, would be able to apply to FairWork Australia for their case to be heard. At that time, I was told there was nothing I could do.
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT WE CAN DO. And even when the outcome is not in our favour, we have done something and fight to the end. Then we can close the case and move on.
In fighting for what you believe are your rights, closure is our ultimate goal.
Indeed, when we fight for our rights, we want to win because in winning, we feel that justice was served and fairness has been observed. However, the other party would think similarly. They may also believe that their decisions were within their rights and in winning, justice has been served. When this happens, there is a deadlock.
The last recourse for parties that cannot discuss issues and reach an agreement amicably, is through the legal process. If you believe that this is the last avenue to fight for your rights, the legal process is there for you to use.
In my case, the management refused to discuss the issues with me amicably. “You are under probation. We can terminate your employment without giving you an explanation” was their pronouncement. Not knowing me and the principles for which I stand for, if they had given courteous, respectful and humane communication a chance, they would have discovered that I will be the first to pack up my bag and hit the road if I was not doing my job correctly.
If your employer is not ready and willing to indulge in respectful, fair and friendly discussions with you as an employee; if you feel that you are being treated unfairly, rise up and fight. Assert your right in a proper, courteous and informed way by:
First, record your dealings with the employer. With your mobile phone, tablet and other internet device, you can enter details as you experience them. Make copies of documents and any material related to your issue. They would be handy in the future.
Second, try to be calm and remain courteous and friendly. Avoid negative communication and stay positive. Always try to establish a friendly, honest and sincere communication. This will become hard if the other party does not adhere to proper communication.
Third, writing is an excellent way to communicate and record your communication with the other party because you can refine and edit what you have to say before sending them. You have the chance to really think carefully what you want to convey. There is no excuse for rude words and language that hurt. You are able to explain clearly what your terms. And this works both ways. If there was an agreement, it is clearly written.
Fourth, seek expert advice. Know your rights from experts. Depending on your issue, you may need to seek a medical, legal and other expert advice.
Fifth, if you believe that you are not able to handle communication by yourself with the other party, you can seek the assistance of an advocate. An advocate is someone who will be working for your interest. They will act on your behalf and represent you in your fight. They will, under your instruction, seek proper expert and legal advice to assist in advocating for you. A good advocate will negotiate and do his/her best to get the best outcome for you based on the circumstances of your case.
Finally, as in all fights, there is a winner and a loser. If you win, it is good. If you lose, there is always another chance. The ultimate goal is closure. Giving up does not achieve closure. Learn to accept the results, the consequences and move on. Because when one door closes, another door opens. Winning or losing, you learn something which will make you a better person, a more responsible citizen.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND FIGHT FOR THEM
by Aida Morden PhD, Advocate