Discovery Plans for Employment Litigation

A court’s Rules of Civil Procedure (its “Civil Rules”) empower the parties to gather evidence, including that in the control of opposing parties and reluctant witnesses.  The Civil Rules do this with Discovery Tools. They include:


Document requests (Civil Rule 34 and 45);

Interrogatories (Civil Rule 33); and

Depositions (Civil Rule 30 and 31).

Protective Orders (Civil Rule 26(c)) and

Motions to Compel and Sanctions (Civil Rule 37).


To make the most effective use of the Discovery Tools, each party should prepare a Discovery Plan in all but the simplest case.  Although not required by the Civil Rules, a Discovery Plan sets out a course of action to gather all available evidence within the time allowed by the Discovery Tools and the Courts' trial calendar. 


Discovery Plans


A Discovery Plan should include:


a list of the evidence needed by the party.

a list of who has the evidence.

a set of written discovery requests (i.e., document requests, interrogatories and requests for admissions) sent to each person who has evidence, requesting that evidence.

a second (or third) set of written discovery to overcome objections or to pursue emergent claims.

a list of witnesses to depose.

a time line setting the sequence for written discovery and depositions.


A Discovery Plan should also address the parties' own disclosure obligations. In federal court, parties must voluntarily disclose at the outset the documents and witnesses that support their s claims or defenses.  By trial, state and federal courts require the parties to disclose their exhibits and witnesses. In addition, each party should anticipate responding to the opponent's discovery efforts. To that end, the party should identify, protect and preserve any discoverable evidence in its possession.


Caution: Destroying discoverable evidence after a threat of litigation can lead to severe consequences. 


Evidence needed by the Party


The evidence that a party needs to prove a claim or defence depends on the claim or defence. Employment cases include claims of:


discrimination

retaliation

unequal pay

unpaid vacation or wages

unpaid overtime or minimum wage

breach of an agreement

failure to restore to a job following a family or medical leave and

whistleblowing


discrimination claim


To determine the evidence necessary to prove a particular claim, the party must know the elements required to prove each claim.  The elements of specific claims and the evidence necessary to prove them are covered in other articles in this wiki.


Relationship of the Discovery Plan to the Trial Brief


A Discovery Plan identifies the evidence necessary to prove a claim and charts a course to gather it in time for trial. A Trial Brief describes the evidence that the party has gathered and will present at trial.  A successfully executed Discovery Plan should, therefore, produce a Trial Brief containing all of the evidence necessary to prove the party's claims.

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