Deposition is an interview session where an attorney asks questions to a witness or complainant who is expected to answer in the spirit of cooperation. Failure to cooperate may result in sanctions under the authority of the judge (who authorizes the Agency to make discoveries by means of deposition, interrogatories (a written questionnaire), and request for production of documents). (The following may also apply to a hearing or fact-finding conference.) The session is transcribed by a stenographer. You will be sworn in. The questions and answers will be recorded and will become part of record. You may be charged for perjury for intentional lying, not for mistaken belief or information or for honest inconsistencies. You will likely be asked if you had a deposition before. If you did not, the attorney may instruct you the following: Do not nod or shake your head for an answer. The stenographer cannot record body gestures. Don’t guess the answer. But estimation is acceptable, etc. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
Do not explain.
Do not try to make the opposing counsel understand the issue or the circumstances, unless asked to explain.
Don’t go back to the beginning or explain how things have developed into what it is today. Stick with the date asked in the question. Only answer about the event asked and referenced by the time or date mentioned in the question.
Do not assume that the question follows from the previous one or will lead to the next question. Just focus on the question posed at the moment and answer it.
Do not expect the opposing counsel to sympathize with you. (When he or she says she does, watch out.)
Do not show carelessness, disrespect, or charlatan attitude about the attorney or about the session.
Never burst out in anger or in violence. (No matter how egregious the question is.) You can object to the question but will have to still answer it (unless stopped by the judge or the fact-finder—not applicable to a deposition).
Do not provide more information than necessary or what was asked.
Do not try to guess the intention behind the questions.
Do not think too much when answering. Just tell what you know or saw, not what you think you saw or what you think should have happen.
Don’t believe everything that is said by the opposing counsel off the record. Whatever is said off the record counts for nothing.
Do not be pressured to commit to an answer.Feel free to revise the answer based on new information, new records, or more clear memory.
Answer with Yes or No first, or stop thereafter. (About 90% of answers can be dealt with by saying Yes or No and no more. The shorter your answer, the shorted the session will be and less questions.)
If 90% of questions can be handled with yes or no, the rest may well be handled with just providing names or dates.
Explain only when asked. Explain as simply as possible. Give the conclusion or culminating event first, then explain what preceded or caused it, for example.
Answer to the best of your knowledge, information, and belief. (Answer even if you don’t have an evidence to support your answer.)Hear-say evidence is allowed in EEOC hearing process.
If you don’t remember or don’t know the answer, say so.
Ask for break time and lunch time. If you are still employed by the Agency you filed against, you are on the clock. (Don’t be scared by an attorney warning you that the deposition may go on well into the evening. He or she is dying to get out of there as much as you are.)
Ask for permission to consult records or memo you prepared for the session in order to “refresh your memory.” Feel free to refer (and take time to refer) to the Report of Investigation (ROI), the Investigation File (IF), or the Investigation Report (IR), if you have one.
If you feel sick, uncomfortable, or feel intimidated, say so on the record and explain why.
Say as much as possible only on record (that is, when the stenographer is recording). In other words, do not say important things when stenographer is not recording.
You can enter your objection to the question on record. But you must still answer the question. (At a hearing, when raising an objection, the ground for raising it must be stated. The opposing counsel responds to the objection. Then the judge rules on the objection either to sustain or overrule it. At a deposition, an objection can only be entered on record without stating the ground for it.)
If you have a representative, feel free to consult with him or her in private before answering.