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Paralegal told she was a trainee solicitor secures compensation from former firm

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Nicolette Browne-Marke, 26, represented herself at the employment tribunal

A paralegal told that she was a trainee solicitor has successfully sued her former employer at the employment tribunal.

Nicolette Browne-Marke, 26, was awarded £14,000 after being unfairly dismissed by NR Solicitors in east London.

The firm also admitted underpaying the would-be lawyer, leaving her unable to afford the bus to work or pay her internet bill.

Browne-Marke started working at the high street outfit in January 2019. Her job offer letter said that she would be given a training contract after a trial period of three months, and Browne-Marke understood that she had indeed become a trainee as promised. She only discovered that the firm hadn’t registered her as a trainee after she left the firm, in March 2020.

The firm disputed this, but Employment Judge McLaren found “the claimant was told that she was a trainee solicitor”.

Browne-Marke put up with a lot in her bid to become a solicitor through the firm. Her salary payments were “intermittent and erratic”, sometimes partly in cash and partly into her bank account.

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Evidence before the tribunal included texts from Browne-Marke to her boss “pointing out that she did not have enough funds for example to pay her bus fare, to pay her train fare to get to court or general travel money”.

The judge also found that she had been unable to work from home when the pandemic hit in March 2020 “because she couldn’t pay her Wi-Fi bill”.

Browne-Marke was sacked not long after and found out that she hadn’t been on a training contract after all.

Representing herself at the employment tribunal, she convinced the judge that the reason or principal reason for her being fired was that she had complained about unpaid wages. That, the judge found, was “automatically unfair dismissal”.

The solicitor hopeful was unable to find another legal or any other job during the pandemic, and now works as a volunteer food delivery driver. She was awarded £14,251.00 for loss of earnings and wrongful dismissal, plus an agreed-on £1,752.76 in back pay.

The gross amount of compensation was originally close to £19,000, but a statutory compensation cap and benefits clawback from the DWP could leave her with as little as £4,600.

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