Font size: bigger | smaller

Building Your Case

This page addresses the following topics for building your case in any kind of legal or quasi-legal challenge to a termination or other adverse action against you in the workplace:

1. How do I build my case?

2. Gather documents

3. Identify witnesses

1. How do I build my case?

To build a winning case, the burden is on you, your union or your attorney to gather evidence, both written and oral, that is specific, accurate, and objective. Even if you don't end up in court, you need to have a case that a judge could find credible in order for your employer to consider settling the claim in your favor.

This advice applies to cases brought in a wide range of forums, include the courts, administrative agencies, like the EEOC or NLRB, and arbitration. Communicating with your union is especially important in an arbitration under a collective bargaining agreement, because in that situation, the union is primarily responsible for making your case.

2. Gather documents

Gather and put in chronological order all of the documents that you can find concerning your employment-every pay stub, every memo, every handwritten note. Try, within your company's rules, to get copies of:

  • Performance evaluations
  • Disciplinary warnings or reprimands
  • Letters of thanks or praise (from managers, customers, or co-workers)
  • Internal memos
  • Company bulletins
  • Attendance record
  • Any document stating the reason for your dismissal
  • Handbooks, manuals, or other documents describing work rules, policies, and procedures
  • Pension benefits and retirement plan information
  • Documents related to your unemployment compensation claim
  • Copies of work assignments
  • Organizational charts, diagrams, floor plans, etc.

Do not take documents or access information to which you have no right and are not entitled. If you are a union member, ask your union to assist in acquiring documents that are otherwise difficult to obtain, but to which you are legally entitled.

3. Identify witnesses

If you think co-workers or others observed your wrongful treatment, make a list of their names, addresses, and home telephone numbers, along with a summary of what you expect them to say - whether good or bad. The "bad" or unfriendly witnesses are especially important to discuss with your attorney so that he or she can evaluate the damage they might do to your case. Forewarned is forearmed.

Ask friendly witnesses to give you a written statement of anything they saw or heard in person regarding your situation as soon as you decide to take action against your employer. Memories fade over time. Make sure the witnesses state only the facts of which they are personally aware and give specific examples of what they have seen themselves or what they were told directly. General statements such as, "Everyone knew that the supervisor was out to get her," are not helpful to your case. Get statements that specify the who, what, when, and where of the discriminatory or otherwise unlawful action, such as your employer's yelling at you or interfering with your work. If possible, have the written statement signed in front of a Notary Public.

The most useful witness statements are fact-intensive and unembellished by anger toward your employer or by friendship to you. They should be detailed enough so that whoever reads them - the court, an attorney, or an agency investigator - will see the "big picture."

If you know of employees who were mistreated in the same way you were, ask them for statements about the way they were treated. If your supervisor, for example, made insulting and demeaning remarks to you and other workers, get statements from the other co-workers that quote or paraphrase the remarks, give the dates on which they were made, and name any others who were present.


This is a selection from Job Rights and Survival Strategies by Paul H. Tobias and Susan Sauter.

Contact Us

Spencer Johnson McCammon LLP
2727 Camino del Rio South
Suite 140
San Diego, CA 92108
Phone: (619) 233-1313

Spencer Johnson McCammon Weekly

Spencer Johnson McCammon Weekly

Topic of the Week

Breastfeeding in the Workplace

Read more...

Blog of the Week

Black Women's Equal Pay Day is all the evidence of systemic racism and sexism you need

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day falls on August 3 this year. That’s the day when, starting on January 1, 2020, Black women have finally been paid what white men were paid in 2020 alone.

Thought for the Week

"Despite the great strides that the U.S. has made in breaking down breastfeeding barriers, gaps in the law remain. Workers don't have federally-protected breastfeeding rights and an employer is not required to compensate an employee for breaks they take to pump, [thus causing women to lose pay]. "

–Nola Booth

List of the Week

from Little Bundle

Facts on the benefits of breastfeeding:

  • It's lack of water usage and zero waste make it environmentally friendly
  • It reduces the risk of post-partum depression in new mothers
  • Mothers offered space at work to pump are able to breastfeed their child longer
  • Adults who were breastfed are more likely to perform better in intelligence tests

Top Five News Headlines

  1. California Mid-Year Legislative Update: Family Leave, Sick Pay, and Work Quotas
  2. California Supreme Court Requires Employers to Pay Meal and Rest Period Premiums at the Regular Rate of Pay
  3. U.S. DOL Rescinds Trump-Era Rule Regarding Joint-Employer Status Under the FLSA
  4. Transportation Industry Alert - Labor Law Changes from the Biden Administration on the Horizon
  5. Registered and Authorized Medical Cannabis Patients in Puerto Rico Gain Employment Protections