Questions to Prepare For
In order to prepare a legal claim against your employer, I will need some information. I find it best for people to know exactly what questions I will need to ask, as well as questions that are likely to come up during the legal process. No one can ever predict exactly what course a legal claim will take, but I try to take some of the mystery out of it here.
- How many employees does the employer have, approximately?
- Are you aware of any other employees filing a lawsuit against the employer?
- Dates of employment at the company, job titles, wage rates.
- Were you an at-will employee? Most people are at will employees. This means that their employment is not controlled by a contract and you could be fired or quit at any time and for any reason.
- Were you given an employee handbook or manual that contained the employer's work policies?Who was your direct supervisor?
- Does the company have a human resources department or staff person?
- Did you sign an arbitration agreement? Have a copy of it available, if you have it.
- Were you a member of a union?
- Were you ever disciplined formally? This may include being written up, suspended, sent home early, being placed on a performance improvement plan, etc. [If you were disciplined at work, it does not mean that your case is ruined. Don't hide any negative details about your employment from your lawyer! It is much better to tell me everything you can, so that we can face any challenges head-on.]
If you have been involved in a lawsuit before, or if you have a criminal record, it does not mean that I can't take your case. Everyone is entitled to justice. It is important for me to know all of the facts, because the company's attorneys will dig for any "bad" information that they can, including looking up your criminal history and getting any publicly available court documents from prior criminal or civil cases, even if these old cases have nothing to do with your current claims. The employer's attorneys are looking for a "gotcha!" moment in the case where they can pull out some old court document and try to make you upset or get you nervous. I do not say this to scare you away from filing a claim. If I have all the important information, I can cut them off at the pass before the other side gets their "gotcha" moment, keeping the momentum of the case in your favor.
- Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit before? This includes fender-benders and divorces.
- Have you ever sued a prior employer?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you ever been convicted of misdemeanor? Felony?
- Have you ever served time in jail or prison?
- Have you ever been on probation or parole?
For Wage and Hour Claims:
- Do you know if you were classified as "exempt" or "nonexempt"/hourly? If you were "nonexempt," then you were supposed to be given meal and rest breaks and overtime pay.
- Were you paid on a salary basis? This means that no matter how many hours you actually worked, you were always paid the same amount. For example, if your salary was $100,000 per year, then you should have received $8,333/month, before taxes and deductions.
- Do you have any of the wage statements that you received? These are also called "pay stubs." If you are seeking to sue for unpaid overtime, bring all wage statements that you can find.
- Do you have any record of your hours worked? Did you keep a record of your hours on a calendar or schedule sheet?
>>For missed meal and rest breaks:
- Did you keep track of the meal and rest breaks that you were unable to take?
- Have you seen a psychologist or psychiatrist about the emotional problems you experienced because of your employment situation? A counselor? A religious advisor? A medical doctor?
- Were you prescribed any medications to deal with your emotional distress? I will need to get your doctor's name, in order to get copies of your file. I will not simply turn over all of this information to your employer during the lawsuit process, but if we are to claim that you suffered emotional distress because of the way you were treated at work, the other side is entitled to know what evidence we have to prove this claim. I will never turn over medical documents that are unrelated to your emotional distress, but during the course of the lawsuit process we may be required to give the other side select documents from your medical files. It is important for you to know this upfront. I will always fight to protect your privacy as much as possible.
- Had you ever experienced any of your emotional distress symptoms prior to being mistreated by your employer? This can include depression, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, panic attacks, and any medication you may have received for these conditions. If the answer is yes that does not mean your case is in jeopardy. It is just something that we will have to face head on. Your employer will argue that you began your employment suffering a certain amount of emotional distress, so, they will argue, they did not cause any emotional distress you later suffered during your employment. We can overcome this point by arguing that your condition was made worse by your employer, or that you suffered different symptoms after being mistreated at work. Remember: you are not prevented from seeking justice just because you suffered emotional symptoms before starting your job!]
- Did you tell anyone about your emotional distress? This can be anyone such as a friend, spouse, family member, boyfriend/girlfriend, and coworker.
- Did you make any notes documenting the negative feelings you suffered because of the way you were treated at work? This can be a blog, emails, handwritten notes, a diary or journal, even notes written on a post-it help to prove your case.