Newsreader Jessica Rowe has revealed just how devastated she was to find herself at the centre of two separate disputes against two former employers, and how few lawyers were prepared to get involved in her legal action against Channel Ten.
Speaking at last night's (18 November) official launch of People & Culture Strategies - the specialist workplace law firm established by former Harmers managing partner Joydeep Hor - Rowe spoke candidly about how distraught she was during her two workplace disputes with Channel Nine and Channel Ten.
She also spoke fondly of her five-year legal relationship with Hor, noting how his friendship and guidance helped her emotionally to get through a very public court case. "He very passionately believed in my case when a lot of other lawyers were not so sure," she said, referring initially to the 2005 case launched by Channel Ten after she defected to Channel Nine.
"It was a whole new world of 'Oh my god what does this all mean? What does this mean for me personally and what does it mean for my career?'" she said.
"I very much felt that my integrity and honesty as a person was being brought into question. Not only was it being brought into question behind closed doors, it was actually being dragged out in the public for everybody to see. It was a very difficult time for me."
Rowe added that she was overwhelmed when she first heard her case in court. "I actually felt like I was going to be physically sick because to hear the judge say my name versus Network Ten, the whole enormity of what was actually going on hit me. That was very terrifying."
The Channel Ten case was dismissed at the end of 2005.
Later, Rowe settled a dispute out of court against Channel Nine when she was let go by the employer while she was on maternity leave.
"I was grappling with this brave new world of motherhood but also at the same time having my professional career wrenched out from under me," she said.
Rowe said Hor supported her legally and emotionally during this period, and assisted her in ensuring the matter was resolved before it went to court.
Last night, Rowe used her experiences with both former employers to highlight how important it is for a lawyer to understand what their clients go through emotionally during workplace disputes.
"I think sometimes it can be easy to forget about the person at the centre of a legal action and the sorts of emotions that you go through," she said. "You don't fully appreciate how heart wrenching and emotional it is."
As such, she praised Hor's new firm, noting that it presented a "whole new way of looking at things" by being people focused. "I very much get a sense that it's about people. It's about integrity and honesty and about people first and foremost," said Rowe.
Hor said that upon opening People & Culture Strategies five months ago there had been some confusion about whether or not the business was a law firm.
"I make no apologies for that confusion," he said, noting his desire to have the firm seen as assisting organisations in dealing with all aspects of people and culture management and not just their legal disputes.