How to Save Emails for an Employment Lawsuit – Pt. 2

In this video employment lawyer Branigan Robertson details how and why people should save important emails from work if they suspect they are the victim of unlawful retaliation, harassment, or discrimination. Mr. Robertson explains when employees should start saving emails, what emails they should save, several strategies on how to save them, and why emails can increase the value of your case.

This video is Part 2 in a four-part series called “How to Document Bad Behavior at Work.” The first video was about taking good notes while at work. This video focuses exclusively on emails. The next video is about taking company documents. The final video is all about text messages. All of these videos are very important so if you’re still employed I recommend you watch all of them! Here are links to each video:

Why Emails are Key to Winning Employment Cases

Emails are the most common type of evidence in employment cases. That makes so much sense because most of our modern workplace communication is done via email. But so many clients call our office after being fired and they didn’t keep any documents! This is terrible as it makes it much harder to pursue your case without any supporting documentation. While it doesn’t ruin the case, it makes it much harder to pursue justice.

By their very nature, employment lawsuits have a lot of moving parts. There are bad bosses, their bad behavior, the treacherous coworkers, more bad behavior, the witnesses who see it all, and the jury that hears the case. Of course, there’s the judge that instructs the jury, and the lawyer that fights for the rights of his client—the worker. And when it comes down to winning nothing or scoring a million-dollar award, time and again, it’s the humble email that makes or break a case. Simply put, it’s important that workers learn how to save emails for a potential lawsuit.

In this video employment lawyer Branigan Robertson details how and why people should save important emails from work if they suspect they are the victim of unlawful retaliation, harassment or discrimination. Mr. Robertson also explains when employees should start saving emails, several strategies on how to save them, and why emails can increase the value of a case.

Why Save Emails in the First Place? 

Legally speaking, it’s always better if you can show that something bad happened at work as opposed to simply alleging that something bad happened. Evidence such as emails can drastically improve the strength of your case, and in some situations, might even quickly bring the employer to the negotiating table.

One of the most frustrating types of calls our office receives involves an employee who was treated poorly by a coworker or supervisor. The coworker was harassed for months—maybe because of religious practices, their ethnicity, or because they refused to do something illegal. The caller tells us about several different incidents. The caller tells us how they complained via email to HR. But when we ask if they still have a copy of that email, they tell us they don’t. At this point steam shoots out of our ears.

The caller will often suggest that we can just simply obtain that information during discovery. While this is a possibility, there’s a lot that can happen before a case gets to the discovery phase. In a worst-case scenario, unscrupulous employers might make important evidence disappear.

When Should You Start Saving Emails? 

In general, you’ll want to start saving emails once you decide you are being treated unlawfully by a coworker or your boss.  This leads us to another question that can be difficult (though no less important) to answer: when is the law being broken?

When asking this question, it’s important to remember that there is a lot of bad behavior that employers and coworkers can get away with that is unfortunately perfectly legal. There is a significant difference between unfair and illegal behavior. 

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act states that it is unlawful for an employer to harass or discriminate against an employee due to several characteristics including race, gender, sexuality, pregnancy status, age (over 40), military status, national origin, gender identity, among others. The law also protects employees who witness their coworkers being harassed and speak up about it. 

For the sake of simplicity, let’s just assume that you suspect you are being treated unlawfully. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the behavior significant (i.e., were you called a vulgar racist slur, did you experience unwanted touching by a manger or coworker, were you told you would be fired if the boss found out you are pregnant)?
  2. Has the incident or behavior significantly impacted your job?

If the answer to these questions is yes, it might be time to reach out to our office for a free consultation.

How Should You Save Emails for a Potential Lawsuit?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to save emails for a potential lawsuit, let’s first look at a couple methods that should be avoided. For instance, it’s a bad idea to save the emails on a work computer or mobile device. Even if the emails are stored in a ‘hidden’ folder, once the employer catches wind of what’s happening, the employee might be locked out of the device in which case they will lose access to the emails. It’s also a bad idea to send work emails to a personal email account. This potentially opens the employee’s personal email account to discovery down the road. Trust us, you don’t want a defense attorney sleuthing through your personal account. 

Here are four methods for saving emails for a potential lawsuit that are better:

  1. Print them out and take them home. Printing work emails will leave a substantially smaller digital footprint making it difficult for the employer to figure out what’s going on.
  2. Send the email via PDF or similar format to an independent email account set up solely to receive the work emails. It’s recommended the employee use a free, web-based service such as Gmail or Yahoo.
  3. Take a picture of the email with a cell phone. This is a less preferred method but is also less likely to leave a digital footprint than the previous methods.  That said, it can cause your attorney substantial frustration if he or she must figure out how to put hundreds of pixelated cell phone pictures into chronological order.
  4. Keep a descriptive log of the emails. This method requires the employee to handwrite or digitally type descriptions of the important emails. This method can be done to avoid leaving a digital footprint entirely. While it’s not as good as the previous methods, keeping a log can still help your attorney to figure out which emails need to be requested during discovery. Such a log can also serve as a record if the employer deletes incriminating emails.

Contact Our Office for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been mistreated, harassed or wrongfully terminated, give our office a call. There is no charge for Mr. Robertson to review the facts of your case. If Mr. Robertson believes that you have a case worth pursuing, he generally represents clients on a contingency basis. This means there are no out-of-pocket expenses, and Mr. Robertson is paid with a portion of the settlement or judgment at the case’s conclusion. Give our office a call to find out if Mr. Robertson can help you.

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

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Filed under Age, Defamation, Disability, Discrimination, Employment Contract, FEHA, Harassment, Leave of Absence, Pregnancy, Race, Religion, Retaliation, Settlements, Severance, Wage & Hour, Whistleblower, Wrongful Termination

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