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5 Mistakes That Can Affect Your Employment Law Case

Written By: Mo Eldessouky Updated On: July 10, 2024 | Read Time: 7 Minutes

Every employment law case hinges on two fundamental principles: liability and damages. Liability involves proving that the employer violated the law, requiring effective communication to decision-makers regarding any issues or concerns. Once liability is established, the focus shifts to determining the case’s value. In California, damages typically encompass lost wages and emotional distress. Any actions deviating from these core aspects of employment law can substantially weaken a case.

Employers who harm their employees should face the consequences. When you file an employment lawsuit against your employer, you have the opportunity to be repaid for your loss and hardship. You may also be able to stop your employer from enacting the same abuse, negligence, or fraud upon others. But first, your case must be a success.

It is necessary to clearly and unwaveringly prove that your employer is in the wrong and provide evidence of the harm they caused. To do this, you’ll need to present a strong case with the help of a skilled employment law attorney. We often talk about the steps that you should take to prepare for your case. Today, we’d also like to spotlight what not to do.

These are the top mistakes in employment law cases that can jeopardize your chance of winning. 

What Makes an Employment Law Case Successful?

The best way to look at mistakes in employment law is how they oppose the elements of a strong case. What makes an employment law case successful can be broken up into four aspects:

  • Employer Awareness – Your employer must be aware of the problem for them to be considered legally responsible.
  • Recorded Proof and Documentation – There must be proof of the wrongdoing and the harm caused for the court to take action.
  • One-Sided Wrongdoing – It’s best if the employer is the only party in the wrong. This simplifies the court’s decision.
  • Complete Legal Strategy – Your legal strategy should encompass all elements of the case, including planning for potential challenges.

Mistake #1) Not Filing an Initial Report of the Problem

For your employer to be considered legally responsible for a workplace issue, they must be officially aware of it.  Awareness exists on several levels in a company where there are tiers of authority and decision making. If one person is identified as the perpetrator, your employer may not be considered liable until the fail to take action after a report.

In other words, if you don’t report the problem, it may be difficult to hold your employer accountable. If you are being mistreated by a coworker, the issue should be reported to your manager or HR. If you are being mistreated by a manager, the issue should be reported to HR or higher authority. If the problem is one of policy, a formal request may need to be submitted. 

A common mistake for an employee alleging disability discrimination is failing to provide documentation or request accommodations from the employer. Without proper communication or documentation, it becomes challenging to establish the need for accommodations or to demonstrate that discrimination based on disability occurred. Therefore, clear communication and documentation are crucial for supporting a disability discrimination claim effectively.

Similarly, in harassment cases, failing to report incidents or document occurrences can weaken the employee’s position. Adequate documentation and timely reporting are essential to substantiate claims and ensure a stronger case against harassment in the workplace.

Filing a report does two things

  1. Establishes that your employer had a chance to correct the problem and did not
  2. Shows that you took reasonable steps to correct the problem and were ignored, prevented, or even retaliated against.

Protecting Yourself While Reporting

One reason that employees sometimes do not file a report is fear of reprisal or retaliation. If possible, filing an anonymous report can help, or you may need to report to an outside organization like OSHA or the EEOC if you are certain that reporting inside the company is too dangerous.

Keep a Copy of Your Report

Your report should be filed in writing and you should keep a copy for your own records. This can serve as proof if your employer “disappears” the report and claims they were not informed.

Mistake #2) Two-Party Misconduct

Employers in California commonly attribute terminations to performance or behavioral issues, which can pose challenges when pursuing legal action. If such grounds for termination exist, they may undermine the employee’s case, highlighting the importance of thorough documentation and evidence gathering to support claims of wrongful termination.

If at all possible, do not participate in misconduct, try to “get back at” your employer before filing a lawsuit, or otherwise muddy the waters regarding who is at fault. The strongest employment law cases are those when an employee (or group of employees) is targeted and mistreated without doing anything wrong.

We know the situation is sometimes complicated. For example, when an employer has abusive policies that lead to a toxic company culture, there may be rule-breaking on all sides. An employer might be wage-stealing by not allowing employees to clock in until after work begins, and in turn employees start refusing to punch out for lunch breaks and after work stops.

But if at all possible, avoid or minimize any situation of two-party misconduct. Keep your behavior clear-cut and advise your coworkers to do the same. Save your “get backs” against an abusive employer for the courtroom.

Mistake # 3) Social Media Indiscretion

We know, your social media should be part of your private life that is no business of your employer. But you also know that employers often investigate an employee’s social media and use it against them. This is especially true when an employer is trying to discredit an employee who has taken them to court.

At least for the duration of your employment law case, keep your social media accounts pristine.

  • Remove pictures and videos of yourself drinking, partying, or doing anything unprofessional
  • Refrain from inflammatory comments and discussions
  • Avoid posting funny pictures about professional misconduct.
  • Delete any potentially dangerous statements or angry commentary about work

Most of all: Do not rant about your employer online. Don’t use your social media to vent your anger or vengeful thoughts. Do not allow yourself to be painted as an unhinged person or someone who would take inappropriate actions at work or to get revenge.

We know these comments are almost always just letting off steam, but keep them in private messages or vent in person with a friend. At least until your case is concluded.

Mistake #4) Not Documenting Everything

Proof is essential in an employment law case, and you are in the best position to collect it. Your lawyer may be able to requisition things like security tapes and certain records, but often employer misconduct is clearest from an employee’s perspective. However, without the evidence that you can collect, it may be difficult to prove the misconduct that you witness every day.

Don’t be shy about collecting evidence and documentation. In most cases, you can quickly put together a portfolio of proof even if you are afraid to file a report or raise the alarm. Most of the time, just keeping copies of communications and your own records may be enough.

As soon as you realize that your employer is acting illegally, start collecting evidence:

  • Keep all emails, texts, and private messages
  • Save or screenshot chat logs
  • Keep your own timesheet records and save copies of any work hour or pay records that you have access to
  • Snap photos of relevant documents that you can’t keep
  • Record conversations that occur in public spaces
    • Open-plan and shared offices
    • Outdoors and parking lots
    • Lobbies
    • Shared work sites
    • Shared dining areas (break rooms, commissaries, etc)
  • Keep copies of relevant work documents
  • Keep records of your work tasks and changes to your assignments
  • Document performance reviews, if relevant

If you’re not sure what evidence to collect, consult with your lawyer. Sometimes, the right evidence is clear – such as recording conversations and emails that prove discrimination or harassment. But in a more complex case, your lawyer can point you toward which records will provide a clear picture of what’s going on.

Mistake #5) Not Telling Your Lawyer Everything

The last common mistake in employment law is neglecting full disclosure with your lawyer. We know that some of the details of your case might be embarrassing or perhaps not entirely flattering. However, those are the details your lawyer needs to know the most – because they might otherwise be used against you.

Maybe you hurled a few insults back at your harassers. That’s a normal self-defense response. It might not make the “perfect case,” but your lawyer can help you build a stronger case if they know that it might come up. 

There are many, many situations that might make a case feel more complicated or that you don’t want to talk about. If your situation isn’t perfect, that’s normal. Here are a few examples to consider.

  • Getting caught up in warring factions at work
  • Shouting back when yelled at by your boss
  • Bringing your own equipment or stealing supplies when your employer doesn’t provide what you need
  • Flirting with a coworker before their behavior becomes sexual harassment or stalking
  • Conflicting with a coworker before their behavior becomes bullying or abuse
  • Horseplay at work before you are injured by an unsafe environment

In these situations, you may feel that your case will be weakened. But your lawyer should know so they can protect you and your case if this kind of issue comes to light. Your employer is still at fault, even if you aren’t the “perfect victim”.

Prepare a Strong Employment Law Case with Eldessouky Law

Every worker has a right to fair and lawful treatment by their employer. The best way to get the justice you deserve is to build a strong case by working closely with your lawyer. Knowing what not to do can be essential to your success. 

However, even if you have already made one of these mistakes, it may not be too late. Tell your lawyer the whole story, collect what evidence you can, and file the necessary reports. The experienced California employment law attorneys of Eldessouky Law will help you take a stand against your employer’s misconduct and guide you toward the best ways to strengthen your case from where you stand today.Contact us for an initial consultation, and we’ll discuss your best case strategy.

We are available for video conference calls

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