Employees' assertion of claims arising from an employment relationship
In case of employee rights being broken, an employee may bring action in a labour court. He may also lodge a complaint to the National Labour Inspectorate (PIP) or to other authorities, e.g. to the Inland Revenue Office, the Food Standard Agency (SANEPID) (e.g. when the appropriate hygienic and sanitary conditions are not provided in the workplace) or ZUS (e.g. when the employer does not transfer social premiums). All depends on the type of law infringement which was commited.
Complaint to the National Labour Inspectorate
Among matters raised in complaints there are irregularities in contracts, irregularities in remuneration payments (paying „under the table”, not keeping the dates of payment indicated in contracts, etc.), braking regulations regarding the norms of daily working hours, etc. Complaints are lodged to a Regional Labour Inspectorate.
They may be sent by traditional or electronic post, by fax or they may be delivered in person. It should be remembered that PIP examines only complaints regarding contracts of employment, it does not control civil-law agreements.
As a rule, PIP does not examine anonymous complaints, so an employee must reveal his personal data. However he may reserve the right to remain anonymous. In such a case, PIP is obliged to keep the employee's personal data secret and the data will not appear in any document whatsoever, that an employer may have access to.
A complaint is free of charge and there are no binding specimens/forms, on which it should be lodged. The requirements that a complaint should meet are transparency (indicating, among other things, the date of its preparation, who is lodging it and against whom – the name and surname/firm, address of a registered office/place of residence), as well as a concise description of situations in which employees' rights are broken. This has to be properly documented with, e.g. a copy of the employment contract which was drawn up contrary to regulations, emails referring to described situations, audio recordings or photos.
In response to a complaint, the labour inspector carries out an inspection of the employer.
The inspection is carried out at the expense of the State Treasury.
The labour inspector is obliged to verify all circumstances which were described by the complainant and within 30 days of it being lodged, to inform him on the course of inspection and its results. This information is sent to the address provided by the complainant.
Based on the findings arising from the inspection, the inspector can:
- issue a decision in which, e.g. he orders the employer to pay the remuneration due for work or other service which the employee is entitled to;
- issue a post-inspection statement binding the employer to eliminate/settle irregularities and to take disciplinary measures against guilty persons;
- punish with a fine or impose a ticket for a committed infringement;
- bring action in a labour court, e.g. to establish an employment relationship (even against the complainant's will).
About the violation of binding regulations the inspector informs immediately, among others:
- ZUS – about a violation of social insurance provisions,
- the Fiscal Audit Agency – about a violation of tax law regulations,
- the Police and theBorder Guard – about a violation of the regulations on employing foreigners.
If the results of the inspection do not satisfy the complainant, he has the right to take the case to court.
Action in a labour court
An adequate court is the court in which the defendant employer has his registered office (in case of an employer not being a natural person) or the defendant natural person who is an employer has his place of residence. Legal action can be also brought before a court adequate to the region where the work is, was or was supposed to be performed.
In most cases action is brought in a district court (in cases regarding establishing the existence of an employment relationship, appeals against the termination of a contract, appeals against the termination of a contract without notice, among others); in cases where the value of the matter in dispute exceeds 75 thousand PLN (with the exception of the above mentioned) the court adequate to bring action in will be a regional court.
The value of the matter in dispute is the amount of money which an employee is claiming. With fixed-term contracts it is the amount of remuneration for the period under dispute, but no more than for one year. With contracts for an indefinite period – for a period of one year (article 231 of the Code of Civil Proceedings - KPC)
The action has to be brought within a non-extendable deadline, which depends on the nature of the case, that is for example 7 days for an appeal against a termination of a contract of employment, 14 days if an employer terminated a contract without notice, 3 years in case of other claims, e.g. payment of a due remuneration.
The employee is released from the obligation to cover court fees, but:
- In case of an appeal of complaint, an appeal of cassation, and an appeal of analysing the legality of a binding verdict, a basic fee amounting to 30 PLN is collected.
- In cases where the value of the matter in dispute exceeds 50,000 PLN, the plaintiff is obliged to pay a fee adequate to the complaint, which constitutes 5% of the matter in dispute, but not less than 30 PLN (article 96 section 1 points 4 and 8 and article 35 of the Act of 28 July 2005 on the court costs of civil cases). If the employee cannot afford the required fee, he may submit an application to the court to be released from court’s fees (article 102 of the Act of 28 July 2005 on the court costs of civil cases).
- In the event of losing the case, the court may charge him with the cost of the proceedings (e.g. when the action was unfounded).
The action has to be filed in writing and must meet the requirements of a pleading, defined in article 126 of the Code of Civil Proceedings. An employee acting without a lawyer/legal counsel may file an action verbally to the minutes in a court adequate to the trial of the case (article 466 of the Code of Civil Proceedings).
The action may be sent by post (obligatorily by a registered letter), or may be filed in person in the court’s registry office. At least two copies of the action have to be prepared: one copy for the court and one for the defendant employer. Both copies are filed in the court, the court will send one copy to the defendant. The same rule applies to every other pleading. One copy should be of course kept by the plaintiff.
The court is bound by the action. So, if we demand compensation in the amount of a month's remuneration, there is no point in counting on the court to raise this amount.
The employee may defend himself on his own or with the help of an attorney-in-fact. If a plaintiff needs the help of an attorney-in-fact and cannot afford to have one, he may submit an application for a court-appointed attorney (article 117 of the Code of Administrative Proceedings).
If the employee and the employer reach an agreement satisfying the employee’s claims, they can conclude a settlement in court.
An appeal against a decision can be lodged with a second-level instance court. An appeal has to be lodged with the court where the case was heard, within two weeks of the date of receiving written reasons of the decision, or within three weeks of the day of the announcement of the decision, when the plaintiff did not submit an application for the reasons to be prepared (article 367 and following of the Code of Civil Proceedings).