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What to Expect for Your Employment Law Deposition

What is a Deposition?

When you are involved in an employment lawsuit and you learn that the date and time for your deposition have been set, you might be unsure of what you should expect. What is a deposition? A deposition is an event during litigation where a witness or party to litigation is questioned for sworn testimony. More simply, a deposition is an event, usually out of court, where the other side to the lawsuit (usually the employer’s attorney) has the opportunity to ask you questioned while you are sworn to tell the truth (under oath). Depositions occur during the discovery phase of litigation. During litigation, either side may have the opportunity to take the depositions of the plaintiff (usually employee), the defendant’s representative, and potential witnesses.

So what to expect if you are scheduled for a deposition? During the deposition, it is likely you will be asked a series of questions from the employer’s attorney. Luckily, absent extraordinary you will typically have the opportunity to have your attorney present for the questioning with you.  In addition to the presence of the Defendant’s attorney and your attorney, throughout the deposition, a stenographer or court reporter typically will record the proceedings so that there is a written transcript afterward. Other individuals may be permitted to attend the deposition, as well. For instance, it is typical that every party to the lawsuit has a right to attend a deposition. Therefore, you should not be surprised in an employment-law litigation matter if the employer’s representative is present for your deposition, as well. However, only the Defendant’s attorney (and sometimes your attorney) will be permitted to ask you questions. Interestingly, it is unlikely that the deposition will take place in the courtroom. Instead, it is typical for a deposition to take place in conference rooms where you will be sitting at a conference table, for example.  Depending on the complexity of the deposition and the type of litigation (state court vs federal court), you may expect the deposition to last a full day or more.

What Kinds of Questions Should You Expect from an Employment Law Deposition?

It is very important to prepare for an employment law deposition. If you plan for questions you will be asked ahead of time and are prepared to answer those questions truthfully, you will be one step further in your workplace discrimination or labor lawsuit. The following are just a few examples of questions you might receive in an employment law deposition:

  • Tell me about your prior employment law background?

  • Have you ever been reprimanded, disciplined, or terminated from a previous job?

  • What is your educational background?

  • Are there other people who support your employment law claim, and can you name them?

  • Tell me each situation which occurred where you believed you were discriminated against?

  • What sort of damages are you seeking in this claim?

In addition to these basic questions, you should be prepared to receive questions about some of the following topics at your employment law deposition:

  • Information contained on your resume;
  • Previous incidents that might relate to your employment law claim;
  • Statements made by co-workers about your claim; and
  • Statements made by your supervisor(s) about your claim.

However, it is important to note that during the pendency of a deposition, you may be asked 100s of questions – some more complex and personal than others. Unfortunately, because discovery in litigation is broad, there may be questions you’re asked during your deposition that may not seem relevant to your case or personal in nature that you do not want to share. For example, if you are seeking emotional distress damages, it may be “fair game” for the attorney to inquire about your past medical history and/or inquire about prior bouts of depression, mental illness, or even pry into past marital issues. While those situations may not seem relevant to you in this litigation and nothing you want the employer to know, many times, Courts conclude that this information could go to the issue of whether your emotional distress in this case was a result of what you suffered at work – or a continuation of a prior condition. Therefore, questions like these may actually be permissible during your deposition.

How Should You Answer Questions in Your Employment Law Deposition?

Since the answers you give to questions during your deposition are sworn, out-of-court testimony, it is important to answer each question truthfully. At the same time, however, it is also important to think carefully about the answers you give. The following are some tips to consider when preparing for your deposition:

  • Take time to think before you answer a question. Remember that it is okay to pause and to consider how you will answer a question before you actually give your response. Unless your deposition is video taped, the transcript will usually only read the question and your answer, without noting any delay in response.

  • If you do not understand a question, you may ask for clarification before you attempt to answer it. It is important to everyone that you understand what you are being asked.

  • Speak clearly. If a Court reporter is typing the transcript, they cannot record “uh-huh” and nods of the head. It is important that you clearly articulate your responses.

  • Only answer the question you are asked. It is common to be nervous for your deposition, but remember to not ramble when giving a response. Listen carefully to the question you are being asked and respond accordingly. Many times, Plaintiffs see their deposition as an opportunity to “tell their story.” However, it is important to also remember that your deposition is a litigation tool – the opposing side is taking your deposition in an effort to bolster their defenses and position in the claim. Therefore, while it is important to fully answer the response to the question, it is also equally important to remember that a deposition is not an opportunity to speak freely, but rather, respond to the questions presented.

Contact an Employment Law Attorney

If you have questions about filing a workplace dispute or discrimination claim, an experienced employment law attorney can assist you. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates today to discuss your options.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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