Experienced employment lawyer tells you what to expect at your deposition in a case arising out of the termination of your employment

If you have filed a lawsuit arising out the termination of your employment, the employment attorney representing your former employer will ask you questions similar to the following during your deposition:

Events surrounding the discharge

  • When were you discharged?
  • Who told you that you were being discharged?
  • What reason were you given for being discharged?
  • Who was present during this conversation?
  • Where did it occur?
  • What did you say at that time?
  • Did you protest your discharge at that time?
  • Did you protest your discharge at any later time?
  • If not, why not?
  • Did you use the company grievance procedures to contest your discharge?
  • Did you understand during your employment that you were required to comply with the company rules in the handbook concerning employee conduct?
  • What do you think was the real reason for your discharge?
  • What evidence do you have that discrimination was the reason for the discharge?

Discharge as a pretext for discrimination

If your former employer claims that it had a legitimate reason for terminating your employment, the law allows you the opportunity to prove that this “legitimate” reason is just a pretext for the real reason, which was unlawful discrimination. The goal of the following line of questions is to explore any evidence of similarly situated employees who were treated differently than you were treated. The employer is looking for evidence to negate your claim of pretext.

  • Did you believe it was reasonable for the company to expect that its employees would not [e.g., be insubordinate to their supervisors]? If not, why not?
  • Did you understand that an employee could be fired [e.g., for being insubordinate to a supervisor] without prior warning?
  • During your employment, did you become aware of any employee who was fired [e.g., for being insubordinate to his supervisor]?
  • Do you know of any employees who [e.g., were insubordinate to a supervisor] and were not terminated from employment? If so, name them.
  • Do you know of any witnesses with knowledge of any employee who [e.g., was insubordinate to a supervisor] and was not terminated from employment? If so, name them.
  • Do you know of any documents that indicate that any employee who [e.g., was insubordinate to a supervisor] was not terminated from employment? If so, identify the documents.
  • Do you know of any facts that support your contention that the company ever treated other employees who engaged in the same conduct you did differently from the way you were treated?
  • Has anyone told you that the company ever treated other employees who engaged in the same conduct you did differently from the way you were treated?
  • Are you aware of any documents that indicate that the company ever treated other employees who engaged in the same conduct you did differently from the way you were treated?
  • Are you aware of any facts that indicate that the reason the company gave you for terminating your employment is false?
  • Has anyone told you that the reason the company gave you for terminating your employment is false?
  • Are you aware of any documents that indicate that the reason the company gave you for terminating your employment is false?
  • Do you know of any facts that demonstrate that you were not fired for the reasons that the company has given you for your termination?
  • What are those facts?
  • Were you ever told that you were terminated from employment for any reason other than [e.g., insubordination]?
  • Would you agree that if, in fact, you were terminated for [e.g., insubordination], that was a legitimate business reason for the company to fire an employee?
  • If not, why not?

Be on guard for “would you agree” questions. These questions are designed to secure a valuable admission from you that the employer can use in a motion, asking the court to grant a summary judgment in its favor. Most experienced employment lawyers advise that the best response to this type of question is to agree, generally, and then challenge, specifically, the question’s underlying premise. For example, here, you might say, “Of course, if I was insubordinate, that might be a legitimate business reason for the company to fire me, but I was not insubordinate, and I am aware of other employees who did what I did and were not fired. I therefore do not believe that was the real reason I was fired.”

Your side of the story

Questions similar to the following are used to explore your version of the reasons for your termination:

  • Were any witnesses present at the time that you [e.g., were insubordinate]?
  • Have you discussed with them what they heard and observed at that time?
  • Do you believe the company violated any of its policies or procedures when it terminated your employment?
  • Which policy or procedure?
  • Why do you believe the company violated this policy or procedure?
  • Did you ever tell anybody at the company that you believed that the company violated that policy or procedure? If not, why not?
  • Do you know of any facts that indicate that the supervisor or decision-makers ever made a biased or discriminatory statement, orally or in writing?
  • Do you know of any witnesses who have knowledge of the supervisor or decision-makers ever making a biased or discriminatory statement, orally or in writing?
  • Do you know of any documents that indicate that the supervisor or decision-makers ever made a biased or discriminatory statement, orally or in writing?
  • What evidence do you have that discrimination was the reason for the conduct you are complaining about?