Wrongful termination cases are often extremely personal and difficult. On one side, you have an emotional client who feels wronged, and on the other, a company that feels entirely in its right to terminate the plaintiff. After carefully selecting witnesses who can speak to the workplace environment and your client’s termination, we suggest turning your attention to credibility.
In many wrongful termination cases, the facts of the termination are debated. Witnesses, especially those who are still employed by the defending company, can be reluctant to implicate others. In short, these cases involve a great deal of “he said-she said.” With so many contradicting accounts to consider, how should attorneys proceed? The following steps can help you prepare for your deposition:
Explore supervisory relationships
Your client’s former supervisor will likely become your most important deponent. As a witness, they will be able to speak to performance reports and testify about your client’s work ethic. Be sure to confer with your client about the questions you intend to pose. Your client will be able to speak to the answers you’re likely to receive and can provide details about the situation which will reveal the supervisor is not a credible witness. If the case involves harassment or retaliation, deposing the supervisor becomes even more important.
Focus on company policies
Wrongful termination cases are never cut and dry. Fortunately, you may be able to bolster your defense using the company’s own policies. Before the deposition, be sure to review all employment material that your client received. These documents will allow you to establish whether the employer was following internal policy throughout the termination process. For example, many companies will issue a formal warning, confront the employee, or take disciplinary measures prior to termination. If the defendant did not adhere to their policy, be sure to establish this fact during discovery. Lastly, don’t forget to clarify whether the policies were clearly communicated to your client.
Establish work history
The strongest defense for your client will include credibly establishing them as a hard and diligent worker. This can take the form of outlining their previous employment relationships. You may consider deposing former supervisors and coworkers. Additionally, be sure to highlight any positive performance history, whether that performance was within the defending company or with a different employer. When you can credibly establish your client as a competent employee, it can open the doors to settlement negotiations.