A website set up by an employment solicitor to enable lawyers to identify ‘serial litigants’ in employment cases has been ‘condemned’ in a parliamentary early day motion (EDM) signed by more than 40 MPs.
The website, serial-litigants.com, uses records of tribunal cases to research the claims background of individuals bringing employment claims. It was set up last June by solicitor Gordon Turner (pictured), founder of Partners Employment Lawyers, and barrister Damian McCarthy of London chambers Cloisters.
The EDM, which has been initiated by David Anderson, MP for Blaydon, claims that the website ‘could be used to screen unfairly applicants who have legitimately taken their employer to tribunal in the past’. He has called on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to investigate whether it complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.
However, Turner told the Gazette that the website is intended to tackle the growing problem of serial litigants, some of whom are launching hundreds of spurious employment claims by searching the internet for job adverts using discriminatory terms such as ‘recent graduate’, which could breach age discrimination laws, and bringing a claim against employers which have used these terms. If the claimant is identified as a serial litigant, the defence lawyer can use this information to have the claim struck out.
Turner said his website had not created a database of litigants, which would require ICO regulation, but instead searches official records to see how many claims an individual has brought. He said some individuals were making 'a mockery of justice’ and costing the public purse and private employers ‘millions of pounds’ in vexatious claims.
‘We have identified someone who makes around 50 age discrimination claims each month, for jobs all over the country, ranging from theatre companies to banks,’ he said.
The individual never applies for the job, but offers to settle – typically – for £2,500. ‘Many employers and agencies do settle rather than risk the average £9,000 cost of defending a claim,’ added Turner.
While Anderson’s EDM acknowledges that a ‘very small number of serial litigants are abusing [their employment rights] for financial gain’, it ‘does not accept that these individuals are a big problem, and does not believe that measures designed to expose them should jeopardise the employment prospects of the vast majority of genuine victims’.
The ICO wrote to McCarthy this month, stating that it had ‘no fundamental objection’ to serial-litigants.com in relation to the Data Protection Act.