One of the most important components of a successful lawsuit against an employer is an employee who is prepared to bring the lawsuit. An employee who can tell an attorney the who, what, where, when, and why of their case in precise detail is more likely to succeed in obtaining a fast and favorable judgment or settlement, and often for more money. Here’s how to go about preparing for a possible lawsuit against your employer.
Recognize the Warning Signs
Rarely does an employment claim materialize out of thin air. Usually, looking back after the dispute arises, an employee will realize that the warning signs were there all along. They can be subtle, such as hushed conversations around the workplace, reassignment of employees, or changes in the amount of work. Other times, they can be more obvious, such as a new policy that comes with very harsh consequences, abrupt changes in a working relationship with a supervisor, unexpectedly poor performance reviews, suspensions or other harsh discipline for seemingly small violations, being passed over for a deserved promotion or raise, or the firing of multiple individuals in a short period of time.
If you start to see these warning signs, it’s time to start preparing for a possible lawsuit.
Talk to an Employment Lawyer
Most employment attorneys, myself included, offer free initial consultations. Even if your workplace dispute is not ripe for a lawsuit; that is, you haven’t yet suffered any adverse consequences from your employer’s actions, you should still speak to an employment lawyer. A lawyer can advise you on what type of claims to expect, what sort of evidence would be helpful to support those claims, and when the claims are ripe for a lawsuit.
Set Up an Organization System
Before you start pulling together your information, set up a system that allows you to easily store it all in one place. One way you can do this is by sending emails to yourself with a unique identifier in the subject line. As an example, you might put in each subject line “[XYZ Employer Lawsuit]” at the beginning of each subject line. This makes all the information quickly accessible with one search of your email inbox. Additionally, if you send the emails as the events occur, the dates of the emails can assist in recreating a timeline of events.
Identify What Information to Gather
Now that you have your system in place, you’re ready to begin gathering information to support your claim. Some of this information will already exist; other information will materialize as time passes. Here are some common types of evidence that are highly relevant in employment lawsuits:
Examples of important documents include employee handbooks, company policies and procedures, rules and regulations, job descriptions and applications, training manuals, memos and announcements from management, work schedules, employee directories, expense reports, sales and commission logs, pay stubs and W-2 forms, benefits offerings and enrollment paperwork, tip collection logs, personnel files, performance reviews, and disciplinary letters. For documents that are not electronic, keep a clearly-labeled folder at home in a place where it is not likely to get lost.
Where something is communicated orally to you, write an email to yourself with the date, time, and substance of the communication, as well as the full name of the person who communicated it to you. If the communication is through text message, either email yourself a copy of the text message or take a screenshot of the text message and email that. If the communication is through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), create a copy of the page by printing the Web page and selecting as the printer either “Print/Save As PDF” or “Microsoft XPS Document Writer” and email yourself the file that’s created.
People and Witnesses
Your attorney will also need a clear picture of how the company is organized and how it treated other employees. Therefore, you should write an email detailing who your co-workers were, who your subordinates were (if any), who your supervisors were, and who their supervisors were. You should include any information you have regarding these individuals, such as pay history, job titles, duties and responsibilities, dates of hire, promotion history dates of termination, discipline history, and contact information.
However, you should take care not to violate any confidentiality or nondisclosure policies in gathering this information. Rather, make a note of the date and general subject matter of the information and your attorney will be more likely to be able to compel the employer to produce the information once the lawsuit has commenced.
Employees who follow this advice will increase the odds of a successful lawsuit exponentially by showing a much stronger hand in the early stages of litigation, which means faster compensation for their claims. For questions about this article, or if you would like to discuss a potential claim against your employer, contact us for a free initial consultation.