Are you a current or former employee thinking about filing a lawsuit against your current or former employer? This article lays out the crucial steps to take before you initiate legal action – from the view point of an employment attorney. Failing to follow these guidelines could have a negative impact on the success of your potential employment law claim. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!
First, what is considered an employment law claim?
Employment law claims can include discrimination, hostile work environment, sexual harassment, unpaid overtime or other wages, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations, disability discrimination or failure to accommodate, and many other claims for wrongful termination. Check out our Employment Practice Areas for more details.
Now for the crucial steps:
1) Document all events. Be sure to document everything. If you have a conversation, follow it up with an email. If you make a complaint to your supervisor or to Human Resources, put your complaint in writing. Eliminate he said/she said. We are often asked about recording conversations. Two things to know: (a) whether your employer has a policy against recording conversations; and (b) whether your state has a law about recording conversations. Ohio is a “one party” state, which means only one party to the conversation has to consent. However, if the other party calls you by phone, they must also be in a “one party” consent state. For example, employee is in Ohio but on a call with her boss in Illinois – since Illinois is a “two party” consent state, it would be unlawful to record the conversation without the boss’s consent.
2) Create a timeline. Using your documentation, create a timeline of the events of your employment situation. It is best to create a timeline early in the process and to update it frequently. This will help you recall the details of your situation while it is fresh in your memory. You can refer back to your timeline later to help you recall dates of important events. Be specific in your timeline. For emails, write down the to and from, the date and time it was sent, and the specific subject line. The more specific you are in your timeline, the more helpful it will be during the discovery process of a lawsuit.
3) Preserve ALL evidence. This goes for tangible evidence, such as a signed piece of paper or printed picture. But it also includes electronic evidence. With so much of the world’s business done through phones, social media and other electronics, this is often the most important area of evidence in a case. Ensure that you save and do not delete any emails, text messages, phone log history, social media postings or social media messages related to your employment situation. Even if you don’t see how a conversation could be relevant, you are required to preserve all potentially relevant evidence. Your lawyer will fight to protect you against the production of personal, irrelevant conversations.
4) If your employment ends, begin looking for a new job right away. You are required to mitigate your damages by seeking comparable employment. Keep track of all jobs you apply for, all interviews, and all offers of employment. Keep copies of all job applications, emails, and other documentation received or submitted to potential new employers. Often times job search websites, such as Indeed.com, will send you an email and store your activity. Keep all of this!
5) Do your own research. Doing what you think is right or what your friend has told you is right may be the difference in having a cause of action or not having one. Visit websites of respected employment attorneys. They will usually have overviews of different legal claims. This will help you to identify your issue and will be helpful for when you contact an attorney.
6) Consult an employment attorney before taking action. If you believe that your employer has violated the law or will violate the law, reach out to an employment attorney before you take any action. Quitting your job, for example, can greatly impact any potential legal claim you may have. Seek advice from an employment attorney to determine the best course of action. Often times an employment attorney can put a person in the best position to take action should an unlawful act occur.