Keep Organized to Prove Your Case

“Having a case” and proving a case are two different things.  Two of the most common recurring issues we encounter in consulting with clients is 1) lack of collected evidence and/or 2) lack of organization concerning collected evidence related to their case.  Both circumstances make it very difficult, if not impossible, for a complainant to prove their case.  Therefore, we offer the following advice.

  • Keep chronological notes:  authorities place great credibility on chronological and well organized notes.  The note taking method should clearly demonstrate they were taken at the time, rather than being recreated days or weeks later.  Taking such notes will also help you record details of events that may seem unimportant at the time, but prove of great value later (we see this in hostile work environment claims). When taking these notes, be sure to record the day, time, location, witnesses, context, and exact circumstances.  Keep in mind your entire note taking apparatus (such as a notebook) may be subject to discovery.
  • Retain e-mails:  most agency business is now largely conducted by e-mail these days.  E-mails are analogous to a running dialogue whereas, in the past, these communications largely occurred verbally, in person or over the phone and without a record.  We recommend printing e-mails you believe are evidence.  Under no circumstances should the content of any e-mail be altered.
  • Do not record conversations in the workplace:  in the days of instant digital audio recording capability, many people ask us if they should record conversations in the workplace to establish evidence.  Our answer in almost every situation is a firm no.  State laws vary on the legality and methods of making such recordings and you can quickly find yourself in a very bad situation (legal or civil). Additionally, the admissibility of such recordings in administrative litigation is questionable.
  • Centralize your information collection:  we recommend using a Trial Notebook method of centralizing all the information related to your case.  Simply obtain a large three ring binder with a few sets of tabs. Store everything you believe is evidence.  Separate the evidence by category and store it in a dedicated tab in the notebook.  You can further divide that category.  So, for example, you could store all printed e-mails in a tab in your notebook labeled “E-Mails.”  You could further subdivide by e-mail author; so, all e-mails written by “John Doe” would be stored in a dedicated tab.
  • Go digital:  the quickest and most accurate method of sharing information you collect is through digital conversion.  In most cases, we request our clients convert their information to a digital format (scan and covert to Adobe Acrobat .pdf)  and e-mail us the attachment.  In cases involving large volumes of information, we arrange a secure cloud storage handoff and sharing of information.  This will also make it easier to prepare electronic submissions to the EEOC, FLRA, MSPB, etc…

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Informed Fed provides expert administrative consulting services to employees and labor organizations in public sector labor and employee relations matters. At a fraction of the cost of attorneys, and with senior level practitioner expertise, our experts can assist you in arbitration, grievance, FLRA, OSC, MSPB, OSHA, OWCP, EEO, and Alternative Dispute Resolution matters. We also provide direct consultation, IT support, and training to labor organizations. Contact us for a free consultation and case assessment.
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