Labor law is a highly diverse and complex area. It can involve everything from claims for overtime pay to computer fraud and abuse act cases (CFAA) involving swindling employees to trials involving the allegedly illegal firing of an employee to complicated pension benefits issues. As labor and employment cases get more complex, the use of computer graphics during trial is also on the rise.
A recent description of an academic program in labor and employment studies notes that “the field of labor and employment law has never been more dynamic and challenging than it is at the beginning of the 21st century. Over the past forty years, sweeping changes in the interplay between the American work place and the law have affected the everyday lives of nearly all members of society.”
Labor cases often go to trial these days, and especially in cases that involve large numbers of employees, lawyers on both sides of a labor law case will often find courtroom graphics extremely useful to show trends, patterns, events that took place over a long period of time, or the real-life impact of a company’s policy or practice.
For example, overtime cases involving hundreds or thousands of employees are finding their way to court. These usually involve summarizing lots of wage and hour data on just a few courtroom graphics. This is what happened in this PowerPoint set of scenarios (below) involving a company’s employees and the hours that they worked over a period of years.
In an unusual labor law case involving federal government lawyers as employees, we helped a law firm establish a class of U.S. Department of Justice employees who were unlawfully denied pay for millions of hours of overtime pay. A judge in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found that the highest officials of DOJ knew that the employees were working overtime and maintained two sets of books – one to include the overtime and one to exclude it. This was the first-ever class action web site that facilitated online opting in, and we designed the website.
In another series of courtroom graphics (below), we showed graphically how a seemingly complex special-employer fund worked, with employers and employees making contributions and funds being withdrawn throughout the year. We used financial metaphors that any juror would understand, such as checkbooks and piggy banks, to illustrate the concepts. We used a funnel to show the number of employees who started out eligible for the retirement benefits and then the number who remained eligible after other qualifying criteria were used.
Similar to securities cases, labor and employment litigation has lagged other types of litigation (e.g. patent litigation and antitrust litigation) in the adoption of courtroom graphics. Now that labor cases are no longer a simple battle of he said, she said and computer forensics are routinely revealing playing a larger role, it is essential to use courtroom graphics to help a jury understand and appreciate your client's position.