How do you go about taking the deposition of a human resource manager? Well, there’s no way I’m going to fit more than ten years of tips and tricks into one video. But I will tell you this, I got my top 5 best moves for a human resource deposition witness – the Kung Fu you need to know to have a successful HR deposition.
Get the Goods
You need to remember something important when you’re taking a human resources deposition. Remember this human resource professional is probably a good person. They are doing a job that they got into because they like human beings, and they see them as a human resource. Don’t assume, just because somebody works in human resources, that they’re going to tow company line. That’s just not always the case. A lot of these human resource professionals are really good and decent people who will tell you the truth if you just ask.
So instead of focusing on the bad things your client allegedly did, always start your deposition with the human resource professional, to have them point out the good things that your client has done. Have them go through the performance evaluations were they talk about your client doing a good job. Have them explain that putting an employee as “meets” or “exceeds expectations” is an indication that the employee is doing a good job. Have the human resources professional establish for you why the employee won so many awards and what those words mean. Make the human resource professional agree with you on the record about the good things that your client did to contribute to the workplace.
A second “pow” moment with your Human Resources professional: paper policies. Almost every workplace has policies but they don’t follow them. This is a goldmine for HR depositions. If they’re not following the policy, it’s a paper policy. But that doesn’t mean that the jury won’t appreciate that these rules existed. Have the human resource manager confirm that these rules existed; and then have the human resources manager confirm that the rules were not followed. Then point out in a kung fu fashion that these rules could have been followed, but somebody made a choice not to follow the employer’s workplace rules.
Talk about the core values of the company with the human resource professional. The human resource professional more than anybody else in the business should know what that business’ core values are. Core values are really important to juries and HR should know them.
If they don’t know what the core values are, what an amazing testimony you got when you ask the person in charge of 1000 employees, “What are the company’s core values?” and they look back at you say, “I don’t know.” That’s terrible! Human resources should always know the core values of the company.
Here’s the best part, almost every company, almost every single company, has either integrity or fairness as a core value. Usually both. So, if you can get the human resource manager to admit or acknowledge that integrity or fairness are parts of the core values of the company, then you’re halfway home. Because, usually, the way they’ve treated our client is lacking in both fairness and integrity. As you know if you can show a failure to follow the company’s policies or core values, you have created a triable issue of fact for the jury, and the employer has almost no hope of getting out of this case on a motion for summary judgment.
“It Wasn’t Me!” Syndrome
Take advantage of the “It wasn’t me!” syndrome that seems to plague every human resource manager I have ever met. And it’s because it usually is true! The human resources department is trying to keep these managers from doing very stupid and malicious things. And when the case happens where they couldn’t stop management from doing that stupid thing, the human resources professional is always ready to tell you under oath, “It wasn’t me!” You want to take advantage of that finger pointing because usually when you go and ask the manager who did it that manager is saying, “It wasn’t me! It was the human resources department and told me I can do it!” This kind of finger-pointing between the various departments is a sure thing for HR deposition success.
This is the kryptonite of every human resource witness I have ever deposed. It’s on the subject of prevention. This is your ultimate kung fu power. Talk about what the human resources manager could have done done, should have done, or did not do, to prevent the illegal conduct from happening in the first place.
Try an open ended question – “Ma’am, what did you do to make sure that Johnny wasn’t discriminated against?” The reality is that there’s no good answer in a human resource deposition. If they did something, well that’s like acknowledging that there was discrimination. If they didn’t do something, well then that’s like acknowledging that they don’t care about their burden under the law to prevent discrimination from happening in the first place.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this video on the kung fu for human resources depositions.