As any lawyer should know, the deposition is a key part of the “discovery” portion of a civil lawsuit. It is comprised of a question and answer conversation between an attorney who represents one of the parties in a lawsuit and a witness who has information that may be helpful in the suit. Depositions are recorded by a court reporter through transcription and/or videography. A skilled court reporter can greatly improve the potency of a deposition. Having prompt and accurate transcripts of the questions and answers can help any legal team properly assess the value of the deposition, as well as use excerpts during settlement negotiations or trial.
A deposition can go on as long as an lawyers see fit, as the information gained in a deposition may be very valuable in a case. Some deposition sessions last several days.
The questions asked in a deposition are relevant to the case in question, so naturally the questions asked in a wrongful termination case will likely be pertinent to issues affecting the workplace and the employee in question. It may be helpful to approach this type of case with the goal of unveiling the employer’s defense strategy.
Call in The Supervisor
In many cases of wrongful termination, sexual harassment is an issue. In this type of case, the plaintiff’s supervisor (as in the recent case of Roger Ailes at Fox News) is often the harasser. To help support the plaintiff’s case, it would be wise to depose the supervisor and ask questions that test that person’s credibility.
There is a wide range of questions that can be asked of a supervisor in this type of case to help you establish credibility and to get a sense of how the employer might seek to defend themselves.
Key questions that you can ask of a supervisor during a deposition (whether the termination had anything to do with harassment or not) might include:
1. Did you (the supervisor) ever give the plaintiff any warning about a problem in their work performance? If so, when? Was anyone else present at the time of this warning?
2. If the plaintiff was warned, did they protest the grounds of the warning, and did they complain to anyone else?
It is also important to show that the employee was a hard working person who carried out their duties responsibly. Questions you may ask that pertain to this include:
3. Was the employee ever given a good performance evaluation?
4. Were any disciplinary actions ever taken against this employee?
Another issue that likely comes into play in wrongful termination is whether or not the company’s employment policies are clear and well communicated. If not, this may help you weaken the employer’s case. Questions on this issue might include:
5. Is there an employee handbook that clearly states the company’s policies regarding causes for termination?
6. Is any formal training regarding the company policies ever given? When and where?
It may be helpful to ask follow-up questions regarding corporate procedures for wrongful termination cases. These could include:
7. Were corporate procedures regarding discipline of the employee followed?
8. Has any other employee engaged in misconduct similar to this employee, and was that other employee disciplined? When and how?
Finally, another aspect of a wrongful termination suit you may want to focus on is the supervisor’s relationship with the employee. This could be explored and may even show a sense of discrimination towards the employee. Some of your questions might include:
9. Was there a social relationship outside of the workplace between the plaintiff and the supervisor?
10. Did the plaintiff ever indicate that they no longer wanted to have a relationship with the supervisor outside of the workplace?
To help make your case as strong as possible, it is important to ask deposition questions that thoroughly explore the nature of the employee’s work history and their relationship with their supervisor. As a Washington DC workers compensation lawyer knows, it can be crucial to take the time during a deposition to explore all possible avenues in order to build a case that is more likely to win a settlement for the plaintiff if their rights have been abused. This type of protection for employees is one of the foundations of our legal system, and it is your job to help every employee secure their rightful protection under the law.
Thanks to our friends and blog contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into deposition questions to include in a wrongful termination case.