Can I take my employer to court?

You can take your employer to court yourself. You will need the necessary documentary evidence to win the case. It might be better to file a complaint with the labour inspectorate first. They may be able to resolve the case or their investigation might result in more documentary evidence being gathered.

Personally claiming damages in a court case

If, following the inspectorate’s investigation, the case appears to be sufficiently serious, the inspector may draw up a report (a record) and submit it to the court. It will then be decided whether your employer has to appear before a judge or not.

If your employer is convicted, it is likely they will have to pay fines and taxes. In very serious cases, your employer may also be given a prison sentence. The money they have to pay goes to the state.

If you want to claim damages or wages yourself, you will have to make a special request to the judge: you must be a civil party. This means you will have to make your name known. It is best to seek professional help with this. (from FAIRWORK Belgium, a a trade union or a lawyer). This poses no risk for you as an employee.

Personally bring your employer to court.

If the court does not take your employer to the labour court after your complaint, you may take your employer to court yourself. You must make sure you have enough documentary evidence. Always get help from a lawyer, FAIRWORK Belgium, or a trade union. If you personally take your employer to court and lose the case, you will have to pay the costs of the procedure.

If you find certain steps risky, get guidance from a care worker, a friend who has a residence permit, FAIRWORK Belgium,, or your trade union. They can request information beforehand without revealing your name. Be as honest and comprehensive as possible towards the people you’re asking to help you. They can only help you if you do this.

Help with a court case

You can receive a great deal of advice about laws and regulations at social services, trade unions, etc. You may also visit a Legal Aid office. They will offer advice if you want to file a complaint or bring a civil action.

For real court cases and a number of other procedures, you will need a lawyer. Organisations that frequently work with people who have no legal residence generally know good lawyers who are specialists in immigration law. Trade unions and FAIRWORK Belgium may be able to give you the names of lawyers specialising in labour law.

A good lawyer will tell you honestly what is and is not possible. They will give you access to all the documents you need. Don’t trust a lawyer if they won’t tell you what they can and can’t do for you.

What does a lawyer cost?

Anyone who is unable to pay for a lawyer can apply to the Legal Aid offices for a pro bono lawyer who does not charge for their services. You are guaranteed such a lawyer in a residence case. For other matters, you must check this first.

If you don’t want a pro bono lawyer or you earn too much to be entitled to one, you can always engage the services of a lawyer yourself. Ask for clear agreements about fees on your first visit. Then ask for the fees in writing.

Trade unions help their members free of charge when defending their employment rights. However, you need to be a member for a set period of time first (sometimes six months, sometimes a year). So it’s best to join the trade union before you experience any problems.

Important: Using a false name or someone else’s name is strictly forbidden. If this is discovered, both you, and the person whose identity you have used, could be penalised. Papers with a false name instead of your real name can never be used as evidence.

Important: If you take a matter to court too long after a situation occurred, the judge is no longer permitted to make a ruling. The faster you act, the better. The justice system in Belgium works slowly. The process may take several years.