If you have a legal dispute in the workplace, you may wonder how to collect the evidence you need to prove your case. Because you typically have the burden of proving your case, and because important information usually is controlled by the employer, you may be tempted to gather information if you believe you are about to be wrongfully terminated or disciplined.
However, BEFORE you start gathering information, keep these tips in mind:
- CAUTION 1: DO NOT remove, copy, email or otherwise “take” anything belonging to the employer that you are not entitled to have, even if it is the “smoking gun” that proves your case. This includes your work-related emails, data from the company’s servers or other electronic information used in your job. Under the law, your employer can use this “theft” or misappropriation of confidential or proprietary information against you by raising legal defenses to undercut your claims. The employer may also try to assert its own legal claims against you not only limiting your damages but also costing you attorneys’ fees to defend yourself and maybe even paying your employer if you lose!
- CAUTION 2: DO NOT record conversations with co-workers, management or anyone else involved without their consent. With today’s technology, it is so easy to record conversations. But, in Florida, it is illegal to record private conversations without every participant’s consent.
- CAUTION 3: REMEMBER that everything you say, write, email, post, joke about, and text can be used as evidence against you. In the course of gathering information, think about how what you say and do will look to a judge or jury. Angry or vengeful comments, letters, email and texts are almost always harmful to your case. It is to your advantage to remain polite and calm, and stay on point when gathering information.
To avoid the pitfalls mentioned above in your workplace dispute, and to discuss what steps to take to properly preserve evidence related to your claims, we urge you to consult with a lawyer well-versed in employment law.