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 compensation or wages yourself, you must specifically ask the judge: you must file a civil suit. This does mean that you have to make your name known. It is best to seek professional help for this. (FAIRWORK Belgium, a trade union or a lawyer). There is no risk whatsoever for you as employees.

Personally bring your employer to court.

If the court does not take your employer to the labor court after your complaint, you can take your employer to court yourself. You must certainly have sufficient evidence. Always be assisted by a lawyer, FAIRWORK Belgium, trade union, … If you take your employer to court yourself and you lose the case, you will have to pay costs for the procedure.

If you find certain steps risky, be guided by a care provider, a friend who does have residence papers, FAIRWORK Belgium, your trade union… They can ask for information in advance without providing your name. Be as honest and complete as possible with the people you seek help from. Only then can they really help you.

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 lawsuits and some other procedures, you need a lawyer. Organizations that often work with people without legal residence usually have good lawyers who specialize in immigration law. Trade unions and FAIRWORK Belgium may be able to give you names of lawyers who specialize in employment 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.