Analysis of the conduct of the interview:
1. Assessment on the interview technique and skills of the interviewer
Would you have conducted the interview differently and if so in what respects
Any other comments
2. Summary of advice given to the client by solicitor
Principles of Interviewing
- Client must make the decisions based on full information and understanding in order to satisfy client. – yes only after solicitor took over
- Don’t miss the point
- Establish rapport and comfort
- Intentional / active listening
- Body language
- Appropriate questioning
- Verbal tracking
- Use plain English
Observations and Critique
As a general assessment of the overall interview, I found that it was very forced and awkward. This was a difficult interview where both the interviewer and the interviewee did not manage to build any rapport so as to converse and discuss the matter easily. This was due to many factors which I will describe here. First of all, the interviewer did not introduce himself nor explain his role in the interviewing process. This led to some confusion resulting in the client asking him for advice. Furthermore, he did not explain that all information gathered was confidential and that no action would be taken without her direction. This lack of explanation was the largest cause of the difficulty as the client was not comfortable with disclosing the details of her situation and obviously needed reassurance. This could be seen when she did not want to reveal her phone numbers nor the details of the parties she was complaining against. The interviewer did not see this and had to push her into giving out her details. Following this, the interviewer needed to ascertain the facts of the case and very inappropriately asked “What’s your problem…”, after which he leant back in his chair, folded his arms and looked down his nose at the client. The choice of words was poor, with a confrontational element to it.
Furthermore his body language at that point in time could be seen as demeaning. Unsurprisingly the client did not explain her situation very well. After the client started to talk, the interviewer cut her off by stating “so it has to do with your job”. This was perhaps an attempt on his part to clarify the picture in his head and perhaps to use verbal tracking to direct her appropriately but it just interrupted her train of thought and showed a total lack of active and intentional listening skills. This again failed to establish rapport with the client or to make her comfortable. The interviewer did finally ask what the client hoped to achieve, after which he was able to get a clearer idea of her intentions. Subsequently, the interviewer was able to extract the names of the parties complained about and went off to do a conflict check.
He did not explain what a conflict check was and just walked away. In response to this, the client looked taken aback and surprised. The term ‘conflict check’ is a legal one and he should have explained it to her in plain English. The rest of the interview continues in this fashion where the mistakes are repeated. Most noticeably the interviewer would ask the client questions to guide her, as he should, but then goes on to interrupt her, hence obstructing her thoughts and the flow of the conversation.
If the interview could be carried out again, I would have introduced myself and stated my role in KLC to start establishing some rapport. It should have been explained to the client that a solicitor would give her advice later on and my role was only to take down the facts. I would then have proceeded to inform the client of the confidentiality of the discussion and to assure her that she would not be judged and that she can feel totally at ease as I was here to help. This would have enabled the client to feel more comfortable and safe in the environment, allowing her to discuss her situation with more ease and openness. I would have positioned my body in an open manner to convey and emphasize the same message. This can be done by genuinely taking an interest in the clients concerns. I would also have immediately asked her what she wished to achieve as this would enable me to then question her without getting of the point, and hence directing the discussion appropriately. Furthermore, I would have explained to her in plain English what a conflict check was so avoid any confusion. Lastly, I would have summarized her case only at the end of the session instead of every so often as was done in the video interview. All these factors, if done correctly, would have contributed to a much more successful interview and not only facilitate in the ease of the communication but also contribute to a greater sense of client satisfaction.
SUMMARY OF ADVICE
There are two issues to be addressed here, firstly, the discrimination and secondly, the termination of employment. With regards to the discrimination, Rohini has a right to lodge a complaint under the NSW Anti Discrimination Act and or a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. These two bodies essentially act in the same area of law except that one is at Federal level and one is at State level. Both bodies work with the same process and commence with a written complaint after which an investigation is carried out. If it is assessed that there is still a case after the investigation, conciliation between the parties is organized. If no conciliation can be reached, a more formal route can be taken, which would be either an application to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal at a state level which is a no costs jurisdiction and with a limit of 40 thousand dollars compensation, or an application to the Federal Magistrates courts which tends to award costs against the loser. However, there is a wider area of claim and also compensation can be higher. In this case, from what has been revealed, all the hallmarks of a case of discrimination are there; pregnancy, employment issue, detrimental change in relationship in the work environment. But it still depends on the facts of the case, and only a court can decide that.
Regarding the issue of termination of employment, Rohini may be in breach of contract as she walked out without providing the 6 weeks notice that was required and may be liable for 6 weeks of pay. However, it can be argued that 6 weeks of notice is an extreme requirement in the first year of employment. Additionally, unfair dismissal may be argued if she can show that she had no other option but to leave due to the workplace environment. There is a case for constructive dismissal if she shows that the situation was engineered to force her out. This would ultimately come down to the evidence of what was said or done. Assuming that Rohini takes out the action for unfair dismissal, under the work choices legislation, she can claim that the work environment wasn’t what she signed up for and that nothing was done to rectify the situation. The complaint must be filed 21 days from her leaving the work place, and there is a filing fee although it can be waived as she is unemployed.
Action can be taken to address both issues, but not in all circumstances, and may be limited only to one. It comes down to 3 questions. Do you feel unjustly treated? Do you feel discriminated against? Do you want to take action? If the answer is yes to all the questions, then the first step is to lodge a complaint. Keeping in mind that the whole process may mean going to court and being cross examined, which may take up to 2 or 3 years. On the other hand, the conciliation process is fast with an average time of 6 – 8 weeks. Rohini should read the provided literature, have a think and discuss it with her mom before deciding on what to do.
Written by yeenhowe