Posted on 16th March, 2022

Jobseeker banned from tribunals service after making more than 40 ‘vexatious’ claims

A man has been banned from using the employment tribunals (ET) service after making more than 40 “vexatious” claims against multiple companies, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled.

Mr D Taheri was handed a Restriction of Proceedings Order (RPO) of indefinite notice, prohibiting him from making claims against employers without the permission of the EAT or the Judge of the High Court.

The EAT found that Taheri was engaged in a “weaponisation” of the ET process, and had a “modus operandi” of applying for a job, bringing a claim against the employer if his applications were rejected, and seeking out thousands of pounds in damages.

The majority of his 43 claims, brought between 2012 and 2020, were struck out after either having no reasonable project of success, being withdrawn by Taheri, or after the claims were settled out of court. All of the claims he brought forward failed.

His claims were often brought on the grounds of race, age and/or disability discrimination. Taheri described himself as being of Iranian ethnicity, and had also been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The first claim, for £1,000 and made on 18 October 2012, was brought against Orchid Pubs and Dining Ltd after Taheri was rejected from a chef role. The pub claimed that he was not invited to interview because of the “pushy and insistent nature” of his emails.

Taheri was found guilty of harassment against a member of staff at Orchid, was sentenced to 28 days of imprisonment and handed a two-year restraining order against the employer.

In 2013, he also claimed £5,000 against a clothing retailer after he was rejected from a part-time sales assistant role, claiming that this would cover “a year’s wages”. The retailer claimed he had turned up at one of its shops and had been staring “menacingly” at staff through the window.

On 6 November the same year, the president of the England and Wales ET wrote to the treasury solicitor about Taheri, describing how he “seeks thousands of pounds but then writes to the Respondent’s representatives repeatedly (20 or 30 times) demanding settlements of £500, and threatening to hold a press conference”.

No formal action was taken as a result of the letter, but Taheri refrained from pursuing other claims for a number of years.

On 31 January 2018, he sought “at least £10,000” after being invited to interview for a sales role at Parkdean Resorts Ltd, and being, in his words, “fobbed off again and again”.

The holiday company had written to Taheri informing him that the position was no longer available due to full staffing levels. Another claim to the company for disability discrimination made in 2019 after four unsuccessful job applications was struck out after Taheri failed to pay a deposit of £600.

On 28 February 2018, Taheri lodged separate claims for £25,000 of damages from both Stoneacre Ltd and Wilson and Co. Motor Sales Ltd. The claim against Stoneacre was settled on 10 April, and the claim against Wilson and Co was withdrawn after Taheri failed to attend a preliminary telephone hearing.

On 28 February 2018, he also lodged a third claim of £25,000 after being rejected from a sales role at Perry Motor Sales Ltd. The employer described how he had been “overbearing” during an initial group exercise, and had emailed threatening litigation unless he was invited to another interview. The claims of age and race discrimination were later dismissed and Taheri was ordered to pay the company £1,000.

On 13 December, he claimed £50,000 for age discrimination after being turned down for a sales adviser role at Virgin Media Ltd. After receiving a rejection letter from the employer, he had replied stating “this is is disability discrimination”, copying in “BBC Watchdog and Acas”. The claim was struck out after he failed to pay a £750 deposit.

Over the course of 2018, Taheri attempted to secure “at least” £485,000 of compensation from 17 different employers, and made 10 separate claims of £25,000.

He had filed “at least one claim every month, save for August” during 2018. Taheri argued that since February 2021, he had “only” three claims outstanding; however the EAT commented that three claims was “not an insignificant number”.

The tribunal ruled that he had “used the ET process to put pressure on would-be employers to enter into low-value settlements” and “habitually and persistently brought proceedings without any reasonable grounds”, causing would-be employers “inconvenience, harassment and expense out of all proportion”.

Sophie Whitbread, senior employment associate at Penningtons Manches Cooper, said that RPOs, while a useful tool, “are not an absolute barrier to the claimant ever litigating again”: “An RPO simply provides a filter for any future claims, in that the individual will have to apply to the employment appeal tribunal for permission to bring a claim”.

“To be vexatious, an individual’s claims have little or no basis in law, and those proceedings will be subjecting the employer to harassment, inconvenience and expense out of all proportion to the possible gain to the employee,” she added.

Employers in this situation should “keep clear records of any behaviour in the course of the proceedings that they believe to be unreasonable, and of the impact on the employer of that behaviour”, she said.

Jules Quinn, employment partner at King & Spalding, said that in this case, the affected employers sought to “buy off” Taheri out of court for smaller sums of money, “rather than incur legal fees of defending it”.

Employers affected by vexatious claims that wish to do this can apply for the case to be struck out, or ask for a deposit order to be issued to the claimant. “In this case, Mr Taheri refused to pay a number of deposit orders made against him and so the proceedings were discontinued” she said.

Having “good housekeeping” was also a must for employer interview panels, who should be “up to date” with their inclusion and diversity training, she added. “Be clear about the importance of keeping notes: what to write and, more importantly, what not to write. Hiring decisions should be robustly made involving HR.”

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