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Can my ex employer retaliate against me for testifying against them?

Long Island City, NY |

A former colleague who is suing our ex employer for poor treatment and sexual harassment has asked if I would make a statement to the EEOC on his behalf. Is there any way my ex employer could take any action against me for this? If I choose to make a statement, do I have any further obligation to remain involved after that? Lastly, since I agreed to help over an email conversation, if I change my mind, is there any way that I could now be subpoenaed or the like and be legally forced to get involved? Thank you.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

I see no action that your ex-employer can take against you for helping out in your colleague's case unless, of course, you are untruthful. Yes, you can be obligated to cooperate further via subpoena; changing your mind has no effect on this.

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Asker

Posted

Thank you. If a settlement can not be reached, or if they do not simply drop the case following an investigation, in your experience, how likely is it that the EEOC will actually take the case to court? Thank you.

James K. Lyder

James K. Lyder

Posted

The EEOC typically only prosecutes cases that involve large companies and/or issues that have broad application. The idea is that the EEOC wants to use its limited resources to affect as much of the workforce as possible. 99% of the time, the EEOC will do an investigation and then just issue the claimant a "right to sue" letter which then allows the claimant to file a lawsuit against the employer.

Posted

Your "ex employer" is now no better - and no worse - than any other human in this planet so far as you are concerned. Obviously, life has no guarantees, but you haven't said anything that suggests a vulnerability with respect to that ex-employer. Whether you voluntarily choose to make a statement or not is upto you. But whether you do so or not, you can be subpoenaed. And from whatever you've written thus far, if your former colleague goes to Court, it looks immensely probable that you will be subpoenaed - in other words, yes, you can be "legally forced" to provide truthful testimony. Whether you call that "getting involved" or not, that is the law.

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Asker

Posted

Thank you for your help. I often work out of the country for extended periods of time. What happens if I am subpoenaed while abroad?

Krishnan S. Chittur

Krishnan S. Chittur

Posted

They would have to serve the subpoena upon you, which is a daunting task if you are abroad. But once the subpoena is "served" properly - that's a legal term, which means a lot more than you somehow coming to know of the subpoena - you must comply. You could talk to the issuing attorney to come up with a mutually acceptable date and time; if you're unable to reach agreement with him/her, you can seek orders from the Court pointing out your hardship and inconvenience. Most courts would be accommodating; courts are not usually enthusiastic to penalize non-parties.

Posted

I agree with the prior responder with an addition. You can also retain a personal attorney to represent you.

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Posted

As a general matter, there are protections for people who choose to testify. Under Title VII (the law the EEOC enforces most commonly) there is a clause of the law called the "participation" clause of the "anti-retaliation" provision that basically says the law wants to protect people from adverse consequences for giving testimony. If, for example, you were to testify and tell things that were bad for the company and they then went out and "black balled" you in the market (gave bad references etc.) then that may be protected under the law. That being said, those cases tend not to be very straight forward. The best policy is to tell the truth, don't be vindictive or go out of your way to hurt the company for any of your own personal reasons, but to follow your conscience as far as standing up for any wrongs you may have overseen that affected your coworker.

THIS IS NOT AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE.

This is not legal advice. Consult with a lawyer about your particular situation.

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