The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh

Experts in Workplace Rights for Bay Area Workers

1388 Sutter Street, Suite 1000
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 593-0076
Fax: (415) 653-8935

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.

Practice Areas

The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh assists plaintiffs in the following areas of employment law: Stock Option Disputes, Age Discrimination, Pensions and Benefits, Trade Secrets, Severance Packages, Physical and Drug Tests, Gender and Sex Discrimination, Libel and Slander, Defamation, Employment Contracts, Employment Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Family and Medical Leave, Race or Nationality Discrimination, Covenants Not to Compete, Wrongful Termination, Workplace Disputes, Disability Discrimination, Reasonable Accommodation, Pregnancy Discrimination, Pregnancy Leave, Sick Leave, Gay and Lesbian Rights, Wages and Overtime Pay.

Vaznaugh Weekly Weekly

Topic of the Week

Surviving Job Insecurity

According to economists, the recession is mostly in our rear view mirror so there should be more job security, correct? Welcome to the new normal, unfortunately, where job insecurity is the norm.

Read more...

Blog of the Week

Donald Trump's policies will mean more workers dead on the job

Each day in the United States, 13 people are killed as a direct result of hazardous working conditions. And, more than 10 times that number die of work-related diseases that are less sudden but no less devastating.

Thought for the Week

"For I can raise no money by vile means."

–William Shakespeare

List of the Week

from Careerbuilder.com

Lax With Laptops: Computer Insecurity

  • 9% of workers have downloaded a virus on their computer at work.
  • 18% of workers have opened an attachment or clicked on a link from a sender they didn't know.
  • 18% have looked at a website that they knew wasn't secure while at work. 

Top Five News Headlines

  1. Yes, you can legally be fired for attending a political rally
  2. Why Google Could Lose
  3. Secret Service Out of Overtime Money for 1,100 Employees
  4. Trump Pick to Oversee Worker Protections Promoted Sweatshops on Remote US Islands
  5. What the Science Actually Says About Gender Gaps in the Workplace