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Show Cause Letters for Discrimination

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Show Cause Letters

Employment Law

Need advice about issuing or responding to show cause letters for discrimination? Start here.


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Call Anderson Legal for a fixed-price initial consultation about your options with respect to show cause letters.


Get legal advice about show cause letters from Anderson Legal, starting with a fixed-price initial consultation.

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Show Cause Letters for Discrimination

Disciplinary Processes Australia

Anderson Legal assists employers and employees dealing with issues related to show cause letters for discrimination.

Show Cause Notices for Discrimination

Why employers ask employees to “show cause”

In Australia, issuing show cause letters is one of the steps an employer can take to afford an employee procedural fairness in a disciplinary process. Failing to give employees a chance to ‘show cause’ why disciplinary action is unjustified can see decisions overturned or compensation awarded.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), failing to give an employee a chance to respond to a workplace issue may be taken into account by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in determining if a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable. The law states:

387 In considering whether it is satisfied that a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable, the FWC must take into account:
  1. whether the person was given an opportunity to respond to any reason related to the capacity or conduct of the person; and…

For employers, there can be real consequences for failing to provide procedural fairness to employees. For example, outcomes from thousands of conciliations in the Fair Work Commission show significant monetary payments are common following disputed dismissal decisions:

Monetary Payment Outcomes from Unfair Dismissal Conciliations

As can be seen, the number of unfair dismissal claims made against employers, and the monetary payments reflected in conciliation outcomes, highlight the importance of fair disciplinary processes and properly drafted show cause letters.

Issuing show cause letters

A show cause letter is meant to provide an employee with an opportunity to explain (show cause) why they should not face disciplinary action. For that reason, it should at least contain sufficient information to allow a proper response, such as:

  • the potential disciplinary action (ie, dismissal) that may result if the employee does not ‘show cause’;
  • adequate details of the alleged discrimination or other issue giving rise to the potential disciplinary action;
  • any relevant work history or background (ie, previous warnings) the employer may take into account when deciding the appropriate action; and,
  • information about how and when the employee is asked to respond, as well as any other rules (ie, confidentiality) that may apply to the process.

Responding to Show Cause Letters

There is no ‘all-purpose’ response to a show cause letter

There are many different approaches a person may take when faced with a complaint about alleged discrimination. The reasons for this are obvious – not all allegations are the same and individual circumstances need to be considered.

Discrimination in the workplace can take different forms. A study by the Diversity Council of Australia on discrimination and harassment in the workplace showed the highest rates were experienced by people who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people with non-Christian religious affiliations, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ+, and young workers (under 30):

Workplace Discrimination and Harassment 2019 and 2021

Discrimination occurs, as do complaints of discrimination that are unfair or false. However, it is not always a case of the accuser lying about events.

People may face false or unfair workplace discrimination complaints for all sorts of reasons. For example, executives and managers make many decisions that affect the rights or interests of workers. Those workers may feel unfairly targeted, rightly or wrongly. It is often in that context a discrimination complaint is made against an executive or manager.

Upsetting people will not necessarily be unlawful discrimination unless the conduct is linked to, or based on, one of the protected characteristics set out in discrimination laws.

The varied ways a discrimination complaint may arise, and the various forums in which discrimination complaints can be progressed, means there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to responding.

Understand your options

There may be a number of options open when responding to a show cause letter for discrimination from an employer. However, because the situation may be unfamiliar, involves short timeframes, and is generally highly stressful, people do not always appreciate their options or weigh them in a considered manner.

Four common options when responding to show cause letters for discrimination include:

  • Obtaining advice and guidance;
  • Challenging the process;
  • Challenging the allegations; and,
  • Initiating ‘without prejudice’ negotiations.

There are many different approaches a person may take, and there is no one ‘right answer’ given people have personal priorities. For example, in some cases, there may be multiple strands to the response, with each strand having a distinct purpose but combining to operate together.

Often the work of an employment lawyer involves assisting their client to challenge allegations, raise issues about procedural fairness, and sometimes engage in ‘without prejudice’ negotiations to resolve the problem quickly.

Anybody seeking personalised advice about a specific situation should consult a lawyer as soon as possible, as certain options may cease to be available as time passes. Anderson Legal offers a fixed-price, no-obligation initial consultation for people needing to reply to a show cause letter for discrimination (learn more).

Get appropriate support

People asked to ‘show cause’ are often instructed by their employers to keep the disciplinary process confidential. It can make the process feel isolating and disempowering.

Isolation and disempowerment can make people feel they are simply subject to the process and that the result will be what it will be. This feeling can undermine a person’s opportunity to put their best foot forward.

An experienced lawyer can help you gain a sense of support and authority.

In assessing the allegations or purported findings in a show cause letter, it can be surprising how often employers and managers (even with the benefit of advisers) fail to afford procedural fairness, comply with their own policies and procedures, or take into account relevant information.

The question is: How seriously such flaws are taken by decision-makers? The answer may depend, to some degree, on the authority of the person raising the issue. For this reason, having the support and authority of a lawyer on your side can be critical.

Dr Robert Cialdini identified ‘the principle of authority’ as one of the six key principles of influence in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. It describes the tendency for people to agree or comply with people seen as having authority on a subject. Numerous studies have shown the impact of this ‘principle of authority’ on decision-makers. In the Harvard Business Review, he described the essence of the authority principle in this way:

Two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Virgil offered this simple counsel to those seeking to choose correctly: “Believe an expert.” That may or may not be good advice, but as a description of what people actually do, it can’t be beaten.

So, getting a lawyer to assist you may make it easier to have your voice heard. However, the actual value of a lawyer should run deeper.

The persuasiveness of the response is critical

While knowing the law is fundamental for a lawyer, so is their expertise as an advocate.

Advocacy is all about persuasion.

Persuasion leads thought and action. As such, in reply to a show cause letter, persuasiveness is a critical element in any response.

Work can be one of our defining characteristics or at least an essential part of how we perceive ourselves. So if you feel any disciplinary action contemplated against you would be harsh, unjust or unreasonable, it is evident that the persuasiveness of your response is of the utmost importance.

Experienced lawyers can draw on similar issues in past cases and understand whether particular strategies or responses were persuasive. This bank of knowledge can be drawn upon to provide expert guidance for anybody newly facing such a situation.

Anderson Legal provides legal advice to executives and employees needing to respond to a show cause letter. Contact this firm for a confidential, fixed-price, and no-obligation initial consultation.

Fixed-Price Consultation

On-Demand Resources

If you need advice about issuing or replying to a show cause letter for discrimination, Anderson Legal offers a fixed-price initial consultation.

An initial consultation with Anderson Legal is:

Fixed-price initial consultation

Fixed-Price Consultation
One-Hour Consultation
Confidential
No-Obligation Consultation

A fixed-price initial consultation is $495 incl. GST for up to one hour, which may be tax deductible (consult your tax advisor).

If you need to issue or respond to a show cause letter for discrimination in your workplace, book an appointment for an initial consultation with Anderson Legal. You will receive clear and timely advice that allows you to understand the relevant legal issues and make informed choices about your options.

The time is devoted to ensuring an understanding of the particular issues to allow advice to be given based on the information you provide, which may include:

  • Legal framework for show cause letters
    • What is a show cause letter?
    • Why are employees asked to ‘show cause’?
    • Who can issue show cause letters?
    • When are show cause letters issued?
    • How are show cause responses used?
  • Issuing show cause letters for discrimination
    • Unlawful discrimination vs lawful discrimination
    • Drafting a show cause letter for discrimination
    • Template for show cause letters
    • Alternatives to issuing show cause letters
  • Show cause notice response options
    • Obtaining advice and guidance
    • Challenging the process
    • Challenging the allegations
    • Initiating ‘without prejudice’ negotiations
    • Responding to proposed disciplinary action
  • How to reply to show cause notices
    • Template for show cause responses
    • Why the message must be clear
    • How to address allegations and issues
    • Elements of a compelling response
    • Ways to conclude show cause responses

An initial consultation with Anderson Legal is obligation-free, meaning there is no expectation or commitment to additional legal work or costs. As such, following the initial consultation, if you want to engage this firm for further advice or legal representation, you will receive an estimate of costs as far as possible.

Initial consultations are by appointment only, with in-person, video, and phone options possible.

Who this firm assists

Anderson Legal exists to resolve workplace problems. It provides legal services to:

  • small business operators
  • executives in medium to large enterprises
  • employees in medium to large enterprises
  • public service employees

The potential impact of disciplinary processes on reputations, relationships, and livelihoods makes it critical to have an employment lawyer who is equal to the task. So, if you need an employment lawyer, there are many reasons why Anderson Legal should be your preferred choice:

  • Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, is an experienced lawyer who has been independently described by the Courier Mail as “one of the best legal minds” and a “leading corporate and white-collar crime lawyer” (16 December 2021).
  • Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Royal Commissions, Fair Work Commission, and multiple other courts and tribunals, Andrew Anderson has a demonstrated record of success in complex and difficult cases.
  • Prior to operating a law firm, Andrew Anderson worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers. His depth of courtroom experience ranges from straightforward claims right through to complex trials and appeals.
  • Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and working for just outcomes is an everyday pursuit.

Read below how this firm can assist you, what it costs to get advice, and when to contact this firm.

How this firm can assist

With respect to people facing disciplinary action at work, this firm assists its clients in navigating issues of all kinds, including:

  • advising on whether certain conduct or capacity issues justify disciplinary action
  • assisting with workplace investigations related to disciplinary processes
  • drafting correspondence on behalf of clients, including with respect to show cause letters
  • negotiating resolutions with respect to workplace disciplinary processes
  • detailing the internal complaint processes and resolution possibilities
  • outlining the potential risks faced by disciplinary processes, such as:
    • unfair dismissal claims
    • general protections claims
    • discrimination claims
  • representing clients litigating disputed disciplinary processes in courts and tribunals

Note: Anderson Legal does not provide advice relating to personal injury laws or workers’ compensation laws.

What it costs to get advice

Fixed price initial consultation

Fixed-Price Consultation
One-Hour Consultation
Confidential
No-Obligation Consultation

A fixed-price initial consultation is $495 incl. GST for up to one hour, which may be tax deductible (consult your tax advisor).

If you need to issue or respond to a show cause letter for discrimination in your workplace, book an appointment for an initial consultation with Anderson Legal. You will receive clear and timely advice that allows you to understand the relevant legal issues and make informed choices about your options.

The time is devoted to ensuring an understanding of the particular issues to allow advice to be given based on the information you provide, which may include:

  • Legal framework for show cause letters
    • What is a show cause letter?
    • Why are employees asked to ‘show cause’?
    • Who can issue show cause letters?
    • When are show cause letters issued?
    • How are show cause responses used?
  • Issuing show cause letters for discrimination
    • Unlawful discrimination vs lawful discrimination
    • Drafting a show cause letter for discrimination
    • Template for show cause letters
    • Alternatives to issuing show cause letters
  • Show cause notice response options
    • Obtaining advice and guidance
    • Challenging the process
    • Challenging the allegations
    • Initiating ‘without prejudice’ negotiations
    • Responding to proposed disciplinary action
  • How to reply to show cause notices
    • Template for show cause responses
    • Why the message must be clear
    • How to address allegations and issues
    • Elements of a compelling response
    • Ways to conclude show cause responses

An initial consultation with Anderson Legal is obligation-free, meaning there is no expectation or commitment to additional legal work or costs. As such, following the initial consultation, if you want to engage this firm for further advice or legal representation, you will receive an estimate of costs as far as possible.

Initial consultations are by appointment only, with in-person, video, and phone options possible.

Representation for disciplinary processes

Anderson Legal is transparent about how it charges legal fees.

This firm generally charges on a capped-fee, fixed-fee, or time-costed basis.

Please note that Anderson Legal does not undertake legal work on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis.

In providing representation to small businesses, executives, and employees, Anderson Legal puts in place a formal costs agreement with all clients. Also provided is a disclosure statement outlining basic rights and quotes or estimates for applicable legal fees.

When to contact this firm

Employment law issues have strict timeframes. For this reason, it is prudent to seek advice as soon as possible.

Issuing or responding to show cause letters can involve many legal complexities and there are potential consequences for reputations, relationships, and livelihoods. For this reason, it can be critical for anyone dealing with such issues to get urgent legal advice.

If you want legal advice, you should call Anderson Legal to set up an appointment for a fixed-price initial consultation: