Preparing for arbitration? Here are six vital pointers for questioning witnesses

Simangele Mzizi, Fsp Business, 23 Sep. 2014

Tags: arbitration, arbitration and questioning witnesses, preparing for arbitration

Arbitration is a full re-hearing of the entire case, plus an investigation of the fairness of your procedures leading up to the dismissal (presentation of all the evidence, cross-examination of witnesses, etc).

Once you’ve presented your case, the Commissioner makes a decision in the form of an arbitration award.

This process is quite serious and you need to prepare for it thoroughly if you want to win.

To help you beat the odds and win at arbitration, we recommend you familiarise yourself with the six important pointers for questioning witnesses.

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Arbitration 101: Six important pointers for questioning witnesses

#1: When your witness takes the stand, ask him a few straightforward questions to put him at ease. Ask him to state his position in the organisation.

#2: Follow a logical pattern of questioning, ask questions you had discussed with your witness during your preparation.

Refer to your notes frequently so you don’t go off track and don’t confuse the witness – don’t rely on your memory.

#3: Ask clear and concise questions. Never ask a question to which you don’t know the answer.

#4: For facts in dispute, it’s better to ask the witness to simply relate the incident in his own words – this provides the necessary clarity.

#5: While the witness relates his testimony, you can interrupt him to ask clarifying questions, says the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

The purpose of a clarifying question is to make sure the Commissioner understands what the witness is saying, or for you to emphasise any strong point in the witness’s testimony.

#6: Don’t ask the witness to give an opinion unless he’s an expert witness.

If, during cross-examination, the other party asks any of your witnesses to give an opinion, object immediately because the witness isn’t an expert witness.

Objecting will help ensure you prevent unsubstantiated evidence from being introduced and thus prevent opinions instead of facts being implanted in the mind of the Commissioner.

Using these six pointers will help ensure you question witnesses effectively at arbitration.

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