Your job and career are significant parts of your identity and, for most people, represent vital sources of income and security. As a result, many people are reluctant to “make waves” by complaining about mistreatment in the workplace or suing a current or former company. Sometimes, however, workplace issues become too severe to handle alone.
If you’ve been sexually harassed, wrongfully disciplined or terminated, subject to unlawful discrimination, or otherwise suffered an injustice at the hands of your employer, it may be time to call an employment attorney. Here are tips to help make the most of your experience with a lawyer.
Preparing to Hire an Attorney: Set Yourself Up for Success
Before you meet with an attorney to discuss your employment issues, get organized.
- Write down as many details as you can about facts that may be relevant to your case.
- Sketch out a basic timeline of events (for example, “hired in November 2014,” “assigned to new manager in December 2016,” “written up for first time on January 5, 2017,” etc.).
- Gather documents that may be helpful, such as employee handbooks, contracts or other agreements you have entered into with your employer.
- Make copies of reviews or disciplinary actions and correspondence between you, your supervisors, co-workers, HR staff, etc.
- Note anything else you think may be relevant.
- List the contact information for people who may be able to comment on relevant facts and indicate what kind of information they may have.
Preparing this information before you meet with an attorney is extremely helpful. It assists the lawyer in determining whether you may have a claim under the law and, if so, it starts the wheels turning to pursue your case.
Things to Do Before Filing a Suit or Claim
Lawsuits sometimes have a chilling effect on people’s willingness to discuss sensitive issues and the availability of evidence. Your attorney may advise you to take steps before filing a lawsuit or claim to preserve witness testimony by recording audio, video, or written statements. He or she may also recommend you preserve hard copies of relevant social media streams, website content, or other electronic data that may be altered or become inaccessible. Discuss carefully with your attorney the steps you should take to ensure you remain within the scope of any applicable laws or contractual requirements (such as laws pertaining to recording conversations or prohibitions on downloading company files). Obtaining helpful evidence that is later excluded from your case because it was impermissibly acquired can be devastating.
Investigating Your Case
Once your attorney has filed a claim or lawsuit, the next step in the process is called “discovery.” In this stage, your attorney and the lawyers representing your employer and other defendants investigate the facts related to your claims and their defenses so they can determine what evidence and witnesses the parties will present to support their respective positions. During this process, your attorney will likely ask you to review numerous documents and answer many questions, some of which can seem irrelevant or invasive. You may be asked to provide answers to written questions (called interrogatories) or appear at a deposition to verbally answer questions.
Do your best to prepare complete answers and compile all of the documents you are asked to provide. Your attorney will meet with you to discuss the process and help shield your privacy to the extent permitted by law. He or she will also review the answers and documents before they are shared. If you are deposed, your attorney will be right next to you and object to questions that may be irrelevant or prejudicial.
Employment Litigation Can Take Time
Pursuing a lawsuit against a current or former employer can take a surprisingly long time, so be prepared to wait. The discovery phase is only a part of the equation.
Michigan and federal courts are overburdened, sometimes causing delays of weeks or months before motion hearings, proceedings, and trial dates are scheduled. Often, the judge or your attorney may ask you to consider alternative dispute resolution options like mediation or arbitration to help resolve your claims outside the courtroom. These options can be faster, less formal, and less expensive than going to trial.
Your attorney should keep you regularly updated on the status of your case and what to expect as matters progress. While you can expect the attorney or his or her office to provide notifications, you must pay attention to dates and deadlines and respond quickly to any requests to make yourself available for depositions, hearings, ADR proceedings, or trial.
Consult an Experienced Employment Lawyer
A good lawyer will not only represent you but also work with you to understand and reduce the stress of the entire litigation process. If you’re ready to pursue a claim against an employer, the experienced employment attorneys at Sommers Schwartz are ready to collaborate with you. We’ll help you evaluate your claim, assess your options, and pursue the compensation you deserve.