How to Save Company Documents in Preparation for an Employment Lawsuit – Pt. 3

Mr. Robertson just released his latest video on how employees should save company documents while they are still employed. Employees should save these documents if they suspect something unlawful is happening at work and they want to protect themselves. This video covers when you should save documents, why it is helpful, what documents you should save, and how you should save them to avoid getting in trouble.

This video is Part 3 in the video series, “How to Document Bad Behavior at Work.”

This video series is especially important if you feel like your legal issues fall within one of the following categories:

If you would rather watch this video on YouTube, click here.

Why Save Documents in the First Place?

Whether we’re talking about inappropriate text messages sent by the boss, emailed complaints sent to HR about an abusive coworker, or a performance evaluation containing inaccurate information about your work ethic, documentation simply makes your case stronger. It’s always better to show a jury that unlawful behavior took place rather than merely telling them.  

When an employee has physical possession of important company documents, it becomes harder for unscrupulous employers to make evidence disappear. Strong documentation also has the power force the employer to the negotiating table more quickly.

When Should You Save Documents for a Potential Lawsuit?

For many of the folks who call our office every day, this is the key question. While there is no way to answer this question with 100 percent certainty, the decision to save documents for a potential lawsuit should be guided by the following three questions:

  1. Is what’s happening to you significant?
  2. Is it Impacting your job?
  3. Is it unlawful? 

Number three in that list is particularly important. Remember, there is a lot of bad behavior that occurs in the workplace every day that unfortunately is perfectly legal. 

For bad behavior to cross the line into unlawful behavior, very specific circumstances must occur. For instance, it is unlawful to discriminate or harass an employee because they are in a protected class (i.e., their race, gender, pregnancy status, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin, military status, etc.). Unlawful discrimination or harassment can include the following:

  • Vulgar racist jokes
  • Unwanted touching or sexual advances
  • Exclusion from staff meetings because the employee is pregnant.

Another area of unlawful behavior that employees need to consider is whistleblower retaliation. Generally, a whistleblower is someone who reports dangerous, unsafe or unlawful situations at work. The list of safety violations that occur in California workplaces is too vast to list in an article such as this but includes issues ranging from food preparation to operating room procedures (and many more in between). An employee who experiences retaliation after reporting discrimination or harassment of a coworker, might also want to consider saving documents for a potential lawsuit. For a deeper look at safety laws and whistleblower retaliation, be sure to check out this video.

What Documents Should You Save?

All too often when a potential client calls our office, they’ll tell us about all the solid evidence they have that makes their case a slam dunk. When we ask these potential clients to send over a few specific documents, we’re suddenly overwhelmed with a flood of emails and attachments containing all manner of documents— from barely legible screenshots to 20-page chronologies detailing every miniscule detail of the employee’s work life. 

A simple rule of thumb to consider when trying to figure out which documents to save in preparation for a lawsuit is the following: save the essential documents. What are the essential documents? They include:

  • Emailed or written complaints to HR (as well any responses or attachments)
  • Any write-ups issued to you after you complained (potential retaliation)
  • Negative and positive performance documents (write-ups, performance improvement plans, customer praise, Yelp reviews etc.).
  • Any documents that show improvement.

-Any documents that show other employees are held to a different standard than you.This is only part of the discussion surrounding the types of documents to save in preparation for a lawsuit. For more discussion, be sure to check out Branigan’s video in its entirety.

How Should You Save Documents?

Before we get into the methods employees should use when saving company documents, there are a couple methods employees want to avoid. First, don’t send important company documents to a personal email account. This method makes it easy for the employer to track which documents are being saved. It also opens an employee’s personal email account to discovery later down the road. Trust us, you don’t want the company attorney sifting through your personal email account.

Employees will also want to avoid storing important documents on a company computer or any other company device. If the employer catches wind that you are preparing for a lawsuit, you might be locked out of the device immediately, thereby losing access to the documents.

Here are the best methods for saving important documents:

  1. Print them out, save them in a folder at home. By doing this you lower your risk of leaving a digital footprint.
  2. Set up a web-based email account (Gmail or Yahoo) that will remain separate from your personal account. Save the document as a PDF and forward to your individual account.
  3. Take pictures of the important documents with your cell phone. Obviously, this is not the best method as the resulting images can be pixelated making it hard for your attorney to read. It’s often difficult to keep hundreds of photos in chronological order.
  4. Keep a written log of the important documents. This method should only be done if you feel that any of the previous methods put you at too great a risk of being discovered by the employer.  This method involves making a handwritten inventory of dates and documents you believe are important. Down the road, your attorney should be able to request these specific documents during discovery.

When To Call a Lawyer

Unfortunately, Branigan can’t represent most of the people who call our office. This is especially true for those who are still employed. That said, he does review cases for free. If you feel you are being treated unlawfully at work, give our office a call. Even if you haven’t been terminated, Branigan will review the basic facts of your case.

 If Branigan believes you have a case, he might be able to represent you on a contingency basis. This means you won’t pay out-of-pocket expenses. In a contingency situation, Branigan is paid with a portion of the settlement or judgment at the conclusion of the case. Are you having significant problems with an employer or coworker? Give Branigan Robertson a call today and find out if he can help.

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Filed under Abuse, Age, Defamation, Disability, Discrimination, FEHA, Harassment, Leave of Absence, Pregnancy, Privacy, Race, Religion, Retaliation, Wage & Hour, Whistleblower, Wrongful Termination

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