I spoke about depositions in general a couple of weeks ago. Now, let’s talk about employee depositions in a San Antonio employment lawsuit. The plaintiff employee deposition is critical to success for any employment lawsuit. The plaintiff employee must be able to show the opposing attorney and the employer that the employee can testify, can present well to a jury and tell a coherent story. It is not as easy as it sounds.
The employee has to get past some of the pain, enough to testify without breaking down. Too many tears will impede a story. And, as Mike Maslanka shows in a recent post, the plaintiff employee must be able to look at his/her case with enough objectivity to admit possible error on his/her part. Mike mentions one if his favorite questions to ask (in a deposition, I am sure) "what errors on your part helped lead up to the termination?" No one is perfect, so if you answer, "none," you risk appearing dishonest. If you admit to too many mistakes, or to some very significant mistakes, then you risk losing your entire case.
The plaintiff employee deposition will go as long as several hours and as short as a couple of hours. It is emotionally draining for every client I have had. It can get intense. The plaintiff employee must re-live the very horrible experience of losing a job through no fault of his or hers. I have had many clients cry either during the deposition itself or during a break.
Some clients do not hold up, at all. Some plaintiff employees are suffering from various issues that cause them to be easily lead by opposing counsel. One former client admitted to opposing counsel that he complained about discrimination on Tuesday, even though he and I both knew it was Monday. if it was Monday, then he had a good retaliation claim. If it was Tuesday, then he had no retaliation claim. Why would he say Tuesday? I may never know, other than he was simply easily lead on cross-examination.
Employers will often ask the same question two or three times. The same question. But, it is an important question. "State all facts on which you believe you were the victim of discrimination." If the plaintiff employee omits one or two key facts, then s/he may lose the right to allege those key facts in the lawsuit.
Another "catch-22" is that nice is important, Any witness risks offending the jury if the witness is too rude or pushy. Niceness does count. But, if the witness or plaintiff employee do not "fight" for their position in a deposition, then they risk the opposing lawyer defining their story. The plaintiff employee must be "nice" to some degree, but s/he also needs to fight for her answer, sometimes.
Cross examination is all about one word answers. Opposing counsel wants the plaintiff employee to answer yes or no. But, some questions require explanation. "Isn’t it true you never called in when you were sick?’ Yes, but….. "Yes, but the employer did not require employees to call in if they were ill more than one day. We did not have to call in everyday if we were out more than one day." The explanation fills in a huge gap about why the employee did not call in. At some point, the employee plaintiff must provide this key fact. The risk is that in not providing a key fact, the plaintiff lawyer may not be able to use that key fact when the judge decides summary (ie, quick) judgment.
So, yes, the plaintiff employee deposition is very important.