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Legal minefield gets more tangled

Legal minefield gets more tangled

THE TERMINATION of senior executives could become a “legal minefield” for companies, Harmers Workplace Lawyers has warned. The industrial relations specialists said that there have…

THE TERMINATION of senior executives could become a “legal minefield” for companies, Harmers Workplace Lawyers has warned.

The industrial relations specialists said that there have been several recent cases in Australia that indicate that senior executives who believe they have been treated unfairly are no longer leaving quietly through the back door.

Bronwyn Maynard, Senior Associate at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, speaking at the Clayton Utz seminar, said that senior executives are likely to challenge termination where they feel they have been unfairly dismissed, or believe their reputation has been unduly tarnished.

“A number of recent decisions of Australian courts have recognised ‘implied terms’ in employment contracts, including the implied terms of mutual trust and confidence, and found that the company’s actions have been in breach of those terms,” she said.

“While companies need to have a level of trust and confidence in the executives they employ to run their companies, this relationship is reciprocal.”

The complexity of the issues involved in these overlapping areas of law guarantee that lawyers will continue to fan the flames of the debate.

Aside from avenues for remedy in contract and trades practices law, senior executives also have recourse to a growing body of discrimination case law. Case in point for the legal profession is the recent Switalski decision in the United Kingdom, where an in-house lawyer at F&C Asset Management was awarded £19 million ($40 million) for her claim of sex discrimination and workplace bullying.

Barrister Kate Eastman told an audience of workplace relations lawyers she believes the Switalski decision will have significant implications for large corporate entities, including law firms.

Recent amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act in Victoria effective from 1 September mean that employers in the state will also need to be more responsive to reasonable requests for family care arrangements — an ongoing challenge for firms who walk an increasingly fine line to balance their client obligations, bottom line and employee expectations

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