How To Protect Yourself From Wrongful Termination
Here are some common tips that employment lawyers/wrongful termination lawyers frequently give to employees who are being mistreated on the job or are afraid they will be wrongfully terminated.
- Keep detailed notes of your mistreatment. Be sure to write down the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn very slowly. If you are forced to file a lawsuit, it can (and most likely will) take years for it to go to trial. Unless you have a photographic memory, it will be difficult for you to remember the details. Your notes can be used to refresh your memory. The very fact that you took notes at the time also enhances your credibility. In limited circumstances, these notes can sometimes be used as evidence at trial. It is important for these notes to be accurate, because inaccurate notes may be used against you.
- Complain to Human Resources, preferably in writing. If you do not complain, that fact will be used against you in a lawsuit. Plus, it gives your employer a chance to fix the situation. Litigation is not fun, and it is much better to informally work things out with your employer than to sue it. Stick to the facts when you file a complaint, because any inaccuracies will be used to attack your credibility. Be sure to provide supporting documentation to Human Resources and identify witnesses. Put the complaint in writing because a dishonest employer may deny that you complained if your complaint is verbal.
- Send recap emails that summarize important conversations. For example, if your employer gives you a final warning that you believe to be illegal, you should summarize what was said and document it in an email to the person(s) you had the meeting with. This should be done in addition to any complaints you file with Human Resources.
- Maintain a journal of your emotional distress. Having nightmares? Insomnia? Panic attacks? Shortness of breath? WRITE IT DOWN. Include the time, date, and place of where you felt these symptoms. Note if there were witnesses. The key to maximizing emotional distress damages if you file a lawsuit (which, hopefully, you never have to do) is to be able to provide these kind of details to the jury. If your symptoms are severely affecting you, you should see a medical or mental health professional. The first, and most important, reason for seeing a medical or mental health provider is that they can provide you with treatment to alleviate the symptoms. But it also helps your case because the provider will document your symptoms.
- Keep key documents and evidence, such as discriminatory or harassing emails and text messages. However, there are some things you cannot keep that are discussed in more detail below.
- Educate yourself on your rights and seek help from an employment lawyer.
- Secretly record confidential conversations. That is illegal in most circumstances and could subject you to criminal or civil liability.
- Use inflammatory language or make baseless allegations if you file a complaint with Human Resources.
- Steal company trade secrets or proprietary information. If you are a medical professional, you cannot violate medical privacy laws. It is frequently difficult to distinguish between what you can and cannot keep. This is why it is important to speak with a lawyer at an early stage.
- Threaten to sue anyone. These kind of threats do not look good and rarely accomplish anything. If you are at the point where you want to settle any potential claims or negotiate a severance, you should leave the negotiations to a lawyer.
- Email lawyers from your work computer or work email.
- File complaints for the sole purpose of manufacturing a lawsuit. You should be filing complaints because you want the employer to fix the problem, not to give yourself “job security” or to goad the employer into firing you.