Overcoming the “Edge” and Having a Fair Contest

Copyright CorbisThere is no point spending time and money on a losing claim. Before filing a charge of discrimination or a lawsuit, a person should have something substantial to go on. Feeling badly about general unfairness is not good enough. Baseless suspicion is not good enough. The key is to dig for the hard facts that will provide a good enough basis.

Identifying a good claim takes time, effort, digging for facts, understanding the other side’s point of view, and being honest with yourself and others in evaluating facts pointing to different conclusions. As with all claims, the better your documentation and “networking” with other employees, the better your chances will be.

If there is a good claim, you can do a lot of things to increase the likelihood that a judge and jury will see its merit.

  • Always be cheerful and cooperative at work. Do not give the employer any excuses for denying you a promotion or for firing you.
  • Always try to improve your performance, particularly if your employer brings a problem area to your attention.
  • Make friends and allies among as many co-workers and supervisors as possible. This lessens the chance that anything bad will happen. If something bad does happen, friends and allies in the workplace can give you valuable information and may be a source of very good testimony.
  • Never complain about trivial matters, but always complain instantly and widely if any serious harassment, discrimination, or retaliation occurs.
  • Talk to co-workers and find out if the same things have happened to others.
  • When you complain, complain in writing – and keep a copy – so that you do not depend on supervisors’ memories to save your claim.
  • Be reasonable about the employer’s requests for more information. Many are legitimate. A false sense of pride is your worst enemy. However, if the employer is asking for overly personal information, or if you think the request for information is degrading or humiliating, consult a lawyer before you respond.
  • Be reasonable about the employer’s suggested remedy or accommodation. If it might work, give it a fair chance to work. Let the employer know in writing if it does not work, and a stronger remedy or better accommodation is needed. Keep a copy.
  • If there is no adequate response to your complaint, complain to a higher level.
  • Get a good lawyer early, and follow the lawyer’s advice.
  • Meet all deadlines for filing charges and lawsuits.
  • Do not camp on the lawyer’s doorstep, but stay in regular touch.
  • Use your network of friends and allies to obtain the information your lawyer needs, and to suggest people your lawyer should interview. Keep in mind that the ethical rules will bar the lawyer from talking separately with some company officials unless the lawyer for the employer agrees. However, any really important information can be obtained by taking the testimony of such officials in formal statements ahead of trial called depositions, or in trial testimony.