A Quick Guide for California Labor & Employment Litigators

The overall effectiveness of labor & employment litigation hinges on credible witnesses- and the reliability of their participation. In higher stakes cases, e.g., PAGA, the sheer volume of employee witnesses can tip the scales in favor of a higher settlement for class members and your firm.

Unfortunately, hitting the right quality and volume of witnesses within optimal timeframes can be frustratingly slow. Class members dropping off the radar. Employees with English as a second language. Blue-collar employees with little to no digital footprint.

In decades of investigating L&E cases in California, witness outreach stands as the Mount Everest of litigation. Or perhaps the Olympics. Research is challenging. Turning that list into viable witnesses can feel impossible in some cases.

To be blunt, finding additional employees willing to sign a declaration in your case will always be hard. But there are a few tactics your firm can leverage to make it easier – and give you that edge needed to secure the best settlement.


Widen & Deepen Research

Even if you have a good witness list at the beginning of your case, it doesn’t mean it will be worth anything next year. Deploying more advanced research tactics can give you more options – and more bites at the apple.

I cover this topic extensively in two quick guides:
Overcome Employee Research Obstacles in Labor & Employment Cases

Advice on Conducting Defendant Research in California Litigation

Short version: expand your search to family, friends, co-workers, significant others, former employers, landlords, roommates, barbers, etc, and reach out to them to fill in the blanks needed to connect live with the potential class member.

The key takeaway here is even while you are in an active witness outreach mode, keep your research efforts warm. Keep the pressure on. Sometimes, taking 20 minutes to refresh a list and reach out to a previously hidden employee can unearth a critical declaration that can win your case.


Phone Calls Are the Best Personal Outreach Tool

The lion’s share of PAGA cases involve employers with a high volume of blue-collar workers. Most have a tiny digital footprint. And some don’t even have an email address or a text-message-enabled phone.

The solution: call them. And call them. And call them again.

I won’t go into the art and science of running witness outreach call operations here. However, here are a few things you can do to make your firm’s life a little easier.

* Rotate the times of day you call. Your best witness may be working another job and not be allowed a phone during their shift. If calling at 9 a.m. on Tuesday doesn’t work, try 7 p.m. that evening or on the weekend.

* Rotate the call-out number. Employees take note of the phone numbers of repeat calls. Overcome this by calling from various numbers. You should have multiple phone numbers available for outreach and periodically rotate the staff member making the calls.

* Train your callers to approach with a highly disarming tone. This one is the hardest to explain … but your best witnesses may be getting hammered by salespeople, scammers, or creditors. Previous outreach efforts may have failed because the former employee was scared, confused, or annoyed. A pleasant tone and non-scripted approach can help. Use phrasing that makes it crystal clear you are there to help – not hurt.


Hire Tristar Investigation for Your Employee OUTREACH

We’ve worked on thousands of employee outreach projects across California. In addition to bringing decades of hard-earned expertise, our bilingual outreach team’s speed & precision is unmatched. And since hiring out case outreach to Tristar Investigation qualifies as a Standard Recoverable Cost, you can keep your case costs in check.

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Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is a private investigator and founder of Tristar Investigation, California’s premiere detective agency. Bruce is also a media commentator for the investigation industry, featured in the New York Times, CNN, History Channel, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times and many more. You can find him on Google+ LinkedIn and YouTube.