Is suing your boss worth it?

Filing a lawsuit against your employer can be a long grueling process with various implications (

If you're battling to sort out a problem with your employer and you figure that the only way out is to file a legal claim, this is what you need to know.

If you followed news coverage regarding the legal dispute between Idols judge Gareth Cliff and his employer M-Net, you’re probably familiar with this picture below that made internet rounds at the time. 

Gareth Cliff (right) leaves court with Dali Mpofu (left) (Alon Skuy/Gallo Images)

Yes! You will recall this victorious time when Gareth Cliff and his legal representative, Dali Mpofu left the High Court after the court ruled that the Idols judge be reinstated on the talent show, following his axing. While Cliff’s story was a great example of justice being served, in many cases filing a lawsuit against your employer can be a long grueling process with various implications.

So if you’re considering sending your employer to court, there are a few things you need to be clued up on, starting with when you should take your employer to court. According to the Labour Law guidelines, you’re well within your rights to file a legal claim when you’re:

  • exercising any of the rights given by the Labour Relations Act (LRA) or participating in proceedings in terms of the Act.
  • taking part in lawful union activities
  • taking part in a legal strike or other industrial action or protest action
  • refusing to do the work of someone who was on strike
  • pregnant, or are dismissed for any reason related to pregnancy
  • refusing to accept a change in working conditions
  • being arbitrarily discriminated against (except that an employer may retire you if you have reached the normal or agreed retirement age, or if the reason is based on an inherent requirement of the job, for example being able to speak a certain language in order to do the job properly)
  • transferred following a merger of your company with another organisation
  •  dismissed following a disclosure made by you in terms of the “Disclosure of Information Act”.
  • On the other hand, your employer can dismiss you on grounds based on your conduct, your capacity as an employee and the operational requirements of your place of work.  

    With all this said, there are times when your job may feel down-right toxic, and you figure that the only way to solve things is to go to court (even if none of the above apply). 

    Before you do, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to help you assess your decision:

    Are you letting your personal feelings get in the way?

    Every workplace comes with its likes and dislikes. And if you have a jerk for a boss, chances are you’re not going to like him very much, if at all. But he doesn’t have to like you too. The law does not require employers to treat their employees like family, or be nice or even fairly nice. They can be unpredictable and play favourites as long as their bias towards an employee isn’t based on the employee’s gender, race, sexual-orientation, culture, religion, or any other personal history.

    Read: Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace

    Of course, it’s important for your own well-being that your boss treats you with respect. It’s the right thing to do. However, going to court because your feelings are hurt, will not get you a case strong enough to hold in court.

    Is it worth the stress?

    Depending on the nature of the claim, some legal battles can go on for months, even years. If you’re considering taking your boss to court, you need to consider whether it is really worth the stress, the time you’ll have to invest during the process and the risk of being bullied or harassed.

    Unless if you’ve suffered really poor treatment, the tension a lawsuit can bring can be worse than the experience you’re suffering at work.

    Are you willing to put your career in jeopardy?

    Another major factor to think about is the damage that the court case may have on your current place of employment and the future of your career. Although this shouldn’t be reason enough to back down from seeking justice, if it’s a high profile case or you’re from a small industry, there’s a good chance that filing for a lawsuit may place a dent in your reputation, and ultimately impact your career.

    For instance, if your company views you as a troublemaker, you will suffer the consequences, and the results may hinder your career progression. Plus, once you’ve raised a claim, you need to be ready to deal with your boss on a regular basis, which may not be a pleasant thing to deal with every day.

    There are times when pursuing a legal battle is worthwhile. But by first figuring out when and when not to go to court, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble. If after considering everything you’re still unhappy, perhaps it’s time you browsed Careers24 for a new job.