A Barrister's Blog

The Lighter Side of Law


by Paul Cutler

Litigation heavy

unfair dismissalThanks to a note in Lawyer’s Weekly, I recently came across the Fair Work Commission decision in Dubow v East Coat Law [2024] FWC 1140. Deputy President Saunders commenced his decision with: “Ms  Yolande  Dubow  lives  alone  in  Dunedoo  with  about  a  hundred  farm  yard animals and five cats. She was admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales on 20 December 1984. For reasons I will shortly explain, Ms Dubow’s personal life has been “litigation heavy” for many months“.

The Port Macquarie Dispute

In September 2023, Ms Dubow who had been out of the workforce for 10 years, was an undischarged bankrupt and was contesting two criminal charges against her (which was known to the Law Society) commenced work at a Port Macquarie firm. In mid January 2024, she experienced a problem with her rental accomodation and the firm offered her two nights accomodation in the office. However, this was not an ongoing arrangement and she resigned when a senior solicitor told her she could no longer continue to sleep and bathe in the firm’s offices.

Despite that introduction, that is not what this post is about. Bells were ringing that I had heard of Ms Dubow in the context of some previous disputes and a litigation heavy personal life extended back in time for a lot longer than recent months.

The Court Dispute

In 1998, she was employed as a research officer at the Supreme Court. By March 2003 she alleged she had developed an asthmatic condition because of dust at work. She was then (in April 2003) transferred to the Probate Division [wouldn’t that be dustier?] as a Deputy Registrar, where she came into conflict with the Registrar and Manager of Court Services. In September 2003 the Court sought to transfer her to another vacant position commensurate with her salary, skills and expertise. This led to a constructive dismissal application in the Industrial Commission (see Dubow v AG Department [2004] NSWIRComm 84).

She claimed that she was threatened with dismissal for “having a pink dress, speaking to the media and joking with a colleague which joke he did not object to“. She was also apparently “….berated for wearing leopard print trousers. [and her] Customer service initiatives were derided.” (see [6]).

Interestingly, there was also reference to Ms Dubow’s speaking to the media and her employment with the Court in the 22 April 2004 edition of JustinianA deputy register of the NSW Supreme Court has filed for unfair dismissal after she was sacked allegedly for infiltrating a hidden camera into the registrars’ room. The footage was then given to Channel Seven’s Today Tonight for an exposé on how the courts allow the banks to treat defaulting mortgagors with undue harshness. Yolande Dubow is the former deputy registrar at the heart of the storm. Previously she was the researcher for the President of the Court of Appeal.”

I haven’t yet located that hidden camera case, but I have been reminded of disputes with an Aboriginal Legal Service and also a notable stoush with Fitness First. Litigation heavy is an apt description of several decades of her personal life. Some people just don’t work and play well with others.

Stay tuned for other blogworthy stories…

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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